A Texas appeals court Wednesday overturned a multimillion-dollar verdict against Merck & Co. in one of the few trials it lost over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.
A jury in Rio Grande City in April 2006 had awarded $32 million to the widow of 71-year-old Leonel Garza, a Vioxx user who died of a heart attack in 2001. That award -- $7 million for compensatory damages and $25 million for punitive damages -- later was cut to about $7.75 million under a Texas law limiting damages.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Texas 4th Court of Appeals overturned the verdict, ruling in favor of Merck. The judges wrote that Garza's family did not prove his brief use of Vioxx caused two blood clots that the family's attorneys argued triggered his heart attack. The judges also concluded the family did not provide sufficient evidence to rule out his long-standing heart disease as the cause of his fatal heart attack.
Garza had a prior heart attack and heart bypass surgery, smoked for nearly 30 years and died of the second heart attack after taking Vioxx for less than a month. Merck lawyers had argued that the heart attack was the end result of his 23 years of heart disease.
Merck pulled Vioxx from the market in September 2004.