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My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Expert Testimony Begins in New Jersey Vioxx Trial

Here is an article from marketwatch.com on today's testimony:

Third day of Vioxx trial opens with heart expert

By Greg Groeller

Last Update: 1:24 PM ET Sept. 16, 2005

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (MarketWatch) -- Merck & Co.'s (MRK) Vioxx painkiller is part of a class of drugs that can potentially cause heart attacks in people with pre-existing heart problems, a cardiovascular expert testified Friday.

Dr. Benedict Lucchesi, a witness for the plaintiff in a high-profile trial in Atlantic City, said some physicians and researchers were aware of the problem in the years before Merck and its rivals launched a class of drugs called Cox-2 inhibitors in the late 1990s.

Lucchesi testified during the third day of the trial, which involves a lawsuit by Frederick "Mike" Humeston, a postal worker from Idaho who alleges that Vioxx caused his heart attack in 2001. Merck contends that Humeston's heart attack was the result of poor health and lifestyle.

Christopher Seeger, Humeston's lawyer, showed jurors a letter that a researcher at Vanderbilt University sent to a Merck official after the launch of Vioxx in 1999, warning of problems the Cox-2 inhibitors could cause in patients with heart ailments. The letter was referring to the active ingredient in Celebrex, another painkiller sold by rival Pfizer Inc. (PFE), but applies to all drugs in its class, including Vioxx, Lucchesi said.

The researcher was warning that "you can't just give this to anybody," Lucchesi told jurors. "You have to identify people who are going to have adverse incidents."

Vioxx and other drugs in its class inhibit an enzyme known as Cox-2, which can cause painful inflammation but which also helps prevent blood clots from forming. When Cox-2 is reduced, it can lead to heart attacks and strokes in people who are predisposed to them, Lucchesi said.

"You [drug companies] have a responsibility to educate the practicing physician," Lucchesi said. "Not show ice skaters who can now get out of bed to skate. You've all seen the ads on television. That's really overplaying the point."

The trial, which is expected to last about five weeks, is the first since a Texas jury awarded $253.4 million to the family of a man who died after taking Vioxx. Merck pulled Vioxx from the market last year after a company-sponsored study found that the drug increased the incidence of heart attacks after 18 months of use.

Lucchesi testified for the plaintiff in the Texas case and is expected to appear at future trials. During a break from the courtroom, Seeger said Lucchesi has made a decision to testify against Merck because some scientists and physicians are "embarrassed" by what occurred with Vioxx.

"We are trying the case on the science," Seeger said.

Lawyers for Merck, which faces 5,000 Vioxx lawsuits, will have a chance to cross-examine Lucchesi.


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