Jed Boal ReportingFour days after the arthritis-drug Vioxx was pulled from the shelves a legal battle is brewing against the drug's maker. 300,000 people in Illinois today filed a class-action lawsuit against Merck and Company, and many more may follow.
The arthritis-drug manufacturer pulled Vioxx from store shelves after studies showed the drug may increase a person's risk of having a heart attack or stroke. You may have already seen the ads on the air. Across the country and around the globe the attack on Vioxx has begun.
Attorney Robert J. DeBry says his firm has already fielded 50-60 calls. DeBry says the cases will be pretty straightforward. Merck and Co. introduced Vioxx, the medicine was not safe. The manufacturer either knew that, or should have known that and did not tell anyone.
Robert J. DeBry, Attorney: “There are problems with that medicine. People should have known about the problems, it shouldn't have been on the market. In the meantime all the people are getting heart attacks."
Studies showed Vioxx doubled or tripled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. If you used Vioxx, DeBry advises you call your doctor first. If you've had an injury, get a lawyer and file a claim.
Robert J. DeBry, Attorney: “If you've taken Vioxx, even if you haven't had a problem, you should talk to a lawyer. Won't be an immediate lawsuit, but be aware of the possibilities."
Those people could still have problems. The suits may start off as class action suits and great numbers of individual suits, but the court will likely consolidate all of the cases that will take years to win.
Donald Winder, Attorney: “Ultimately they get resolved, but it’s a hard process.
Defense attorneys will argue Vioxx was not responsible for all heart attacks among its users.
Donald Winder: “The study done by the manufacturer itself says you double your chance for a heart attack, but were you the individual going to get one anyway?"
A company spokesman says the company will vigorously defend against any personal injury lawsuits. Pharmaceuticals can pay out a lot of money and still survive, and anything can happen in court, so this legal assault won't necessarily sink Merck and Company.