Jury Finds for Merck in Vioxx Case

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In a major victory for Merck & Co., a jury has found the drugmaker properly warned consumers about Vioxx risks. The finding means Merck will not be held liable for the 2001 heart attack suffered by a man taking the painkiller.

The jury agreed with Merck's contention that Idaho postal worker Frederick "Mike" Humeston suffered from job stress and health risks that caused his heart attack. Humeston, now 60, had alleged his intermittent use of Vioxx over two months caused his heart attack four years ago.

The verdict left Merck, which voluntarily pulled the drug off the market last year, with one win and one defeat in the first two Vioxx trials. Earlier this year, a Texas jury found Merck liable in a Vioxx user's death.

The jurors had been deliberating since Tuesday afternoon over whether Vioxx maker Merck & Co. can be held liable for the Sept. 18, 2001 heart attack suffered by Humeston.

The jury deliberated for an hour late Tuesday and for an additional 6 1/2 hours Wednesday.

Humeston, 60, of Boise, Idaho, says Merck failed to warn physicians and consumers about risks posed by Vioxx, which the company stopped selling last year because of links to heart attacks and strokes with long-term use.

Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee, who presided over the case, told jurors before they began deliberations Tuesday to take their time weighing the evidence.

The case, the second Vioxx lawsuit to go to trial, took seven weeks to present and was thick with highly technical medical testimony. Humeston's lawyers presented experts blaming Vioxx for the heart attack, and Merck countered by telling jurors there is no proof the drug harms people who take it less than 18 months.

Jurors had been instructed to avoid media accounts of the trial while they are serving on the panel. However, they are not sequestered and are allowed to go home at night.