Vioxx verdict shocks markets

A jury in Atlantic City, New Jersey awarded $4.5 million to a man who said he suffered a heart attack after taking Vioxx. The jury rejected a second man's claim, agreeing with defense attorneys who argued that he lacked sufficient evidence to show that he took the drug consistently. Experts had predicted that Merck would do well in New Jersey, considered home turf for the Whitehouse Station-based company.

The decision appears to seriously damage Merck's key defense of the painkiller: the argument that it is impossible to show that Vioxx caused a heart attack in people with other cardiovascular risk factors. The jury also accepted plaintiff attorney W. Mark Lanier's argument that Merck committed consumer fraud by concealing dangers associated with the drug from doctors and consumers. Wall Street reacted nervously to word of the decision with Merck shares dropping 3 percent in early morning trading. At least 10,000 Vioxx cases remain outstanding.

- see this article from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)
- read this article from The New York Times 

PLUS: Expect the drama to continue today as former Merck CEO Raymond Gilmartin takes the stand in a face-off with Lanier, as the jury weighs punitive damages in the case. If things go badly, it could be a long day for Merck. Article