An article at MarketWatch summarized the defendant’s closing argument in the current Vioxx trial in New Jersey. Here are excerpts from the article:
In a closing statement after a monthlong trial in New Jersey state court here, Merck attorney Christy Jones said the two men had coronary artery disease, and one of them had diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease. Jones also said Merck acted responsibly in studying Vioxx’s risks and warned of the risks in the drug’s label.
“The fact of the matter is Vioxx was not a substantial contributing cause” of the men’s heart attacks, Jones said. “Both of these men we’re at huge risk of having heart attacks, not because of Vioxx but because of risk factors repeatedly established by multiple studies.”
Later in closing remarks that were more than two hours long, she added: “They were on a downhill slope long before they ever took Vioxx,” as she ran her hand down an imaginary hill.
The latest Vioxx trial has been seen as more challenging for Merck because it was the first in which plaintiffs claimed they took Vioxx for at least 18 months. Merck has insisted that only Vioxx use for at least that long elevated the risk of cardiovascular events, and that Vioxx use for a shorter period didn’t elevate risk. In the previous Vioxx trials, plaintiffs claimed to be short-term users of Vioxx, though they still argued the drug contributed to heart attacks.
Thomas Cona, 59, of Cherry Hill, testified he took Vioxx for 22 months before he had a heart attack in June 2003. But Merck lawyers have cast doubt on this claim, getting him to acknowledge under cross-examination that records show he filled three Vioxx prescriptions for about seven months’ worth of pills, between August 2001 and May 2003. Cona said he received samples of Vioxx from doctors to make up for the rest. Cona’s had other risk factors for cardiovascular disease including sleep apnea and high cholesterol.
John McDarby, 77, took Vioxx for four years before his heart attack in 2004, according to prescription records. McDarby had risk factors including being 75 at the time of his attack, a diabetic and a former smoker. Lawyers say this made it all the more imperative that he be informed of Vioxx’s risks, and Merck ignored early warning signs of Vioxx’s safety problems.