The jury in a US federal court has concluded that Merck & Co’s withdrawn painkiller Vioxx was not responsible for the death of Richard Irvin, a 53-year-old Florida man who died of a heart attack in 2001.

Specifically, the jury said that Merck had not acted negligently in making and selling Vioxx (rofecoxib), or in warning users of its potential side effects. Merck had argued that it was Mr Irvin’s underlying heart disease, and not Vioxx, that was the main cause of his death.

Merck is till facing thousands of lawsuits brought by patients who claim Vioxx caused them harm, but so far has won three of the four cases that have come to trial, and lost another in which the plaintiff was awarded damages of $253 million (cut to $26 million under state capping laws).

Vioxx was taken off the market in 2004 after it was linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.