Merck Will Continue to Fight Each Vioxx Lawsuit, Including Humeston Case in NJ
Merck & Co.'s General Counsel Kenneth Frazier reiterated in the first part of September 2005 that Merck has no interest in any "global settlement" of the Vioxx litigation. Instead, Merck and its stable of outside attorneys will fight each and every Vioxx-related lawsuits filed against the drug company, a process which would take many years given the number of Vioxx cases.
During an early September 2005 conference call with reporters, Mr. Frazier made several statements to the press about Merck's current position as regards the Vioxx litigation.
- "We don't intend, as I've said before, to enter into any kind of a global settlement. As it relates to anything else, we haven't changed our strategy. We've committed to defending cases one at a time."
- "We are in this for the long haul. We have both the resources and the resolve to address these cases over many years."
- "We have not changed our strategy. We have committed to defending these cases one at a time, and that's how we intend to proceed."
Remarkably, Mr. Frazier said that he did not recall ever saying there was a category of Vioxx-related lawsuits that Merck might consider settling. In the weeks after the massive Texas verdict against Merck in the first Vioxx trial, there had been reports suggesting Merck could be interested in settling cases where the patient had taken Vioxx for more than 18 months and had no other cardiovascular risk factors before suffering the heart attack or stroke allegedly caused by their Vioxx use. When asked by reporters about this apparent change in stance, Mr. Frazier said:
Those cases are cases we'll have to look at and make decisions about what's the right way to proceed in those cases, as well as, we will look at other cases where the use of Vioxx was of much shorter duration. And I'm not going to prejudge and speculate what might happen in the future.
The company faces at least six Vioxx-related trials in the next six months, according to Mr. Frazier. In fact, one of those trials, Humeston v. Merck, is scheduled to start on September 12, 2005 in Atlantic City, N.J. This will be the nation's second Vioxx trial. The Humeston case involves an Idaho man who had a heart attack after taking Vioxx for two months.
Mr. Frazier and Merck's attorneys maintain that the evidence in the Humeston case will show "Vioxx didn't cause the heart attack" suffered by Mr. Humeston. In more detail, Mr. Frazier contended that the Humeston case is weak because Mr. Humeston only took Vioxx for two months and he had several pre-existing risk factors for a heart attack. Further, Mr. Frazier pointed out that Mr. Humeston has recovered from his "mild heart attack." In summation, Mr. Frazier asserted that "[t]here's no medical or scientific evidence that Vioxx contributed in any way to his heart attack."
The case is Humeston et. al. v. Merck & Co., L-02272-03, Superior Court, Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is one of nearly 2,500 Vioxx lawsuits pending before New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)