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Appeals Courts Reverse Vioxx Awards

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One Vioxx-related verdict against drug maker Merck & Co. was reversed Thursday by an appeals court in Texas, while a Vioxx-related reward was reduced by a New Jersey appeals court.

In Texas, an appeals court scrapped a $26 million verdict awarded to the widow of Robert Ernst, who started taking the painkiller Vioxx eight months before he died in May 2001. The appeals court said there's no evidence that Ernst suffered a fatal heart problems from a blood clot caused by Vioxx, the Associated Press reported.

In New Jersey, an appeals court annulled $9 million of the $13.9 million awarded to John McDarby, who survived a heart attack in 2004. The appeals court said the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act pre-empted New Jersey's Product Liability Act.

The New Jersey appeals court also upheld a verdict in favor of Merck in the case of Thomas Cona, who survived a June 2003 heart attack. That case was heard simultaneously with McDarby's case.

In September 2004, Merck pulled Vioxx off the market after its own study showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attack or stroke. Merck faced thousand of lawsuits in connection with the drug. With these latest rulings, Merck has 11 victories and three losses from trials that reached verdicts, and the damages are now reduced in one of those losses, the AP reported.

In November, Merck reached a settlement in which it agreed to pay $4.85 billion to end thousands of other Vioxx lawsuits.

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