Corporate Compliance

Jury awards widow $253M in Vioxx verdict

Compliance Monitor, August 24, 2005

A Texas jury found Friday that the painkiller Vioxx contributed to the death of Robert Ernst, and awarded his widow $253 million.

"We knew and could see what the truth was," Robert Ernst's widow Carol Ernst told reporters following the verdict, according to Reuters.

The case was the first of more than 4,200 filed claiming Vioxx manufacturer Merck & Co. knew about risks associated with Vioxx years before the company acted on the information.

The drug manufacturer plans to appeal the decision, said Merck attorney Jonathan Skidmore.

"There is no reliable scientific evidence that shows Vioxx causes cardiac arrhythmia, which an autopsy showed was the cause of Mr. Ernst's death," Skidmore said, according to Reuters.

Merck's final award will likely be sharply reduced under a Texas law that limits punitive damages, according to Reuters.

Still, the verdict sent Merck stocks plummeting, losing 7.7% of market value, or $5.2 billion Friday, reported the Associated Press.

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market last year, following a study that found the painkiller increases heart attacks and strokes if taken for 18 months.

Most Popular