A Los Angeles superior court jury today took less than five hours to conclude that Merck was not negligent in the Vioxx case brought by retired construction worker Stewart Grossberg. The key to the winning litigation strategy? Risk factors, according to tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal. Merck attorneys argued that prior artery blockage was the cause of the heart attack, not the 300 doses of Vioxx taken prior to Mr. Grossberg’s heart attack.
In truth, we’ll never know. We do know that behavioral risk factors for heart disease are at epidemic levels in the U.S. — in particular obesity, inactivity, and poor nutritional practices. According to JAMA nearly two in three of us is overweight, and nearly one in three is clinically obese.
The risk factor theory won the day over the theory that Vioxx caused Mr. Grossberg’s heart attack. Today’s court result puts the score at 5 to 3 in Merck’s favor. However, it remains to be seen what will happen with the 14,000+ cases yet to be settled.August 2, 2006