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Judge Carol Higbee, a state judge in New Jersey, who presided over the first Vioxx trial in the state, threw out a defense verdict that had favored Merck in a case brought by 60-year-old postal worker Frederick Humeston, who claimed Vioxx caused his heart attack. That jury ruled that Merck & Co., had provided adequate warnings to doctors about the risks of Vioxx and suggested that Merck & Co., did not defraud millions of consumers of the product.

According to

Higbee cited new evidence in granting Humeston a new trial, which is expected to occur in January with other Vioxx trials on Higbee’s calendar.

“It’s a setback in their (Merck’s) home court,” said Jon LeCroy, an analyst with Natexis Bleichroeder.

Higbee’s clerk said the new evidence involves concerns expressed last December by the New England Journal of Medicine about how Merck evaluated the safety of Vioxx in an important trial.

The journal said Merck had inappropriately deleted data about three heart attacks among patients who had taken Vioxx in the so-called VIGOR trial. Results of the trial were published in the same medical journal in 2000, only months after Vioxx was launched.

This ruling made a bad day even worse for the mega manufacturer Merck & Co., as a New Orleans jury issued a $51 million verdict in favor of a former FBI agent who blamed Vioxx for his heart attack in 2002 earlier in the day. It will be interesting to see how long Merck & Co., will continue to defend it notoriously dangerous drug Vioxx which was withdrawn from the market in 2004

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