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Merck Ordered to Pay $4.5 Million in Vioxx Trial

A New Jersey state court jury has awarded $4.5 million in a lawsuit filed by men who had suffered heart attacks while taking Vioxx, made by Merck & Co. The trial involved two plaintiffs, John McDarby, 77, and Thomas Cona, 60.

In its split decision, the jury said Vioxx was responsible only for McDarby's heart attack, not Cona's. Cona said he had taken the drug for 22 months, but he could only produce prescriptions that proved seven months of use. He said he used samples the rest of the time.

The award of $4.5 million to McDarby is for compensatory damages. On Thursday, the jury will decide whether Merck should face punitive damages as well.

The jury also found that, under New Jersey consumer-fraud law, Merck misrepresented Vioxx's risks when it marketed the drug to physicians. Merck is accused of intentionally suppressing or omitting material information about Vioxx's risks in its marketing to doctors.

Merck faces a class-action lawsuit in a case brought by a New Jersey labor union that provides health benefits to its members.

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Snigdha Prakash
Pieces by National Desk reporter Snigdha Prakash can be heard on NPR's All Things Considered and Morning Edition. The majority of Snigdha's past reports have focused on topics related to entrepreneurship, business, banking and the economy.