NEW YORK – Pretrial motions continued on Tuesday for the upcoming second product-liability trial involving Merck & Co.'s (MRK) withdrawn arthritis drug, Vioxx, this time in a New Jersey state court.
Jury selection for the new trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 12 in the Atlantic City courtroom of Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee. During preliminaries on Monday, she denied a request by Merck to delay the trial by 45 days.
The drug maker had requested the delay because of what it termed a "torrent" of bad publicity from the recently concluded first Vioxx (search) trial in Texas. In that case the widow of a man who died after taking Vioxx for eight months was awarded $253 million.
The New Jersey case, one of nearly 5,000 Vioxx-related state and federal lawsuits Merck faces, was filed by Frederick Humeston of Boise, Idaho. The 60-year-old postal carrier and Vietnam War veteran contends Vioxx was responsible for his 2001 heart attack.
Merck is appealing the Texas award and aims to offer a more persuasive defense in Atlantic City, the casino resort town located 125 miles from the drug maker's headquarters in Whitehouse Station, N.J.
Merck withdrew Vioxx in September 2004 after it was shown to double the risk of heart attack and stroke among patients who took it 18 months or longer. Thousands of former users, or their survivors, then filed lawsuits against Merck, alleging harm from the medicine.
In the Aug. 19 award, a Texas state court jury found in favor of the widow of Robert Ernst (search), who died of heart arrhythmia after taking Vioxx.
The drug, introduced in 1999, had global sales of $2.5 billion in 2003.