Jury begins deliberations in New Jersey Vioxx trial | VailDaily.com

Jury begins deliberations in New Jersey Vioxx trial

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – A jury began deliberating Tuesday in the case of two New Jersey men who say Vioxx was responsible for their heart attacks and that manufacturer Merck & Co. engaged in “unconscionable commercial practices” in marketing the painkiller.The six-woman, two-man jury got the case about midmorning after state Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee explained the law and the elements necessary for a verdict. To reach a verdict on each question, at least seven jurors have to agree, she said.As soon as they got to the jury room, jurors had a question – asking Higbee for a copy of her 80-page charge. The plaintiffs’ lawyers agreed to it; Merck’s didn’t. Higbee gave it to the panel anyway.The monthlong trial over Merck’s now-withdrawn drug focused on Thomas Cona, 60, and John McDarby, 77, who said they were stricken after using Vioxx for arthritis pain.Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, said both men had clogged arteries and were at risk for heart attacks before they began taking the drug. The company, which pulled Vioxx off the market in 2004 after a study linked it to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, faces about 9,650 Vioxx-related lawsuits in state and federal courts.To date, Merck has won two Vioxx cases – one victory coming after a retrial – and lost one. Another trial is under way in Texas.In closing arguments Monday, lawyers for the men urged the jury to return verdicts compensating the men for what they said was Merck’s conscious concealment of the drug’s risks. Merck’s lead lawyer, meanwhile, said the company tested the drug before marketing it and that criticism over its safety was “Monday-morning quarterbacking.”The trial is the first dealing with plaintiffs who claim long-term use of the drug. Cona said he took Vioxx for 22 months before his June 2003 heart attack; McDarby said he took it for four years.Vail, Colorado

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