Appeals courts in New Jersey and Texas have scrapped verdicts against drugmaker Merck stemming from some of the earliest trials involving its once popular painkiller Vioxx.

A Texas court scrapped a $26 million verdict against the drugmaker stemming from the first trial. The court found no evidence that Robert Ernst suffered a fatal heart problem from a blood clot triggered by Vioxx.

He had been taking the now-withdrawn drug for eight months before being stricken in May 2001. A New Jersey appeals court separately voided $9 million of the nearly $14 million awarded to John McDarby in 2006 by a jury in Atlantic City.

The panel found that New Jersey's Product Liability Act was pre-empted by the federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.