As reported by Reuters, a jury on Tuesday awarded $9 million in punitive damages to a New Jersey man who blamed Merck & Co. Inc.’s Vioxx for his heart attack. Excerpts:
The punitive damages come on top of $4.5 million in compensatory damages the jury awarded 77-year-old John McDarby last week after they found Vioxx was a significant contributing factor to his heart attack and that Merck failed to adequately warn of the drug’s risks.
Merck, which pulled the $2.5 billion-a-year drug off the market in September 2004, said it would appeal the verdicts.
For the punitive damages, the jury of six women and two men in New Jersey Superior Court determined that Merck withheld material information on Vioxx from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the company’s actions were deliberately meant to harm.
Merck expressed disappointment over the jury’s decision but gave no indication that it was willing to consider settling some of the cases it is facing.
As part of its deliberations, the jury considered whether Merck intentionally withheld from regulators an analysis of several clinical trials done by a company statistician in 2000 that showed a higher incidence of heart attacks among patients taking Vioxx than those taking other drugs.