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Punitive Damages Hefty in Latest Vioxx Lawsuit

Obviously, the jury who deliberated over punitive damages in the latest Vioxx trials in New Jersey sent a message loud and clear to mega-drugmaker Merck yesterday, when it awarded $9 million to John McDarby, on top of the $4.5 million his family received last week.

The hefty punitive damages awarded to McDarby, one juror says, had to do with Merck not warning patients in a timely fashion about the heart-stopping effects of Vioxx, perhaps because the company was in too big a hurry to beat Pfizer's still available Celebrex to market.

Even worse for Merck, the punitive damage award may lead to a criminal probe, according to New Jersey laws that refer such outcomes to the state's Attorney General's office and county prosecutors for a review.

Some legal experts believe yesterday's outcome -- influenced in part by how long patients took Vioxx -- could play itself out over and over in the courts, a bad omen for Merck as well as other drugmakers that risk your future with health-harming drugs effectively marketed and sold to separate you from your hard-earned cash, yet do nothing for your health.

MSNBC April 12, 2006

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