Gerald Barnett, a 62-year-old retired FBI agent, took Vioxx for 31 months before he suffered a heart attack in July 2002. Four years earlier, Barnett had undergone quintuple bypass surgery after a heart attack at the age of 58. Following the heart attack and surgery, Barnett exercised daily, maintained a healthy diet and took prescription drugs to lower his cholesterol.
Barnett stopped taking Vioxx a week before Merck pulled it off the market in September 2004, after studies surfaced revealing that the drug increased the risk of stroke and heart attack. Barnett's attorney, Mark Robinson, says Vioxx caused his client's second heart attack.
After deliberating for less than six hours, the jury returned with a verdict for Barnett, charging that Merck was negligent in failing to adequately warn Barnett's doctors about the risks of the drug, and that the drug firm "knowingly misrepresented or failed to disclose" drug information to Barnett's doctors. The jury chose to assign all blame to Merck, and none to various physicians involved in the case.
Barnett's lawsuit against Merck for problems with Vioxx is among more than 16,000 such suits nationwide. State and federal courts have so far sided with Merck in five cases and the plaintiffs in two.