Britons in Vioxx compensation call

Last updated at 10:56 20 August 2005

British law firms are preparing to sue pharmaceutical giant Merck after a US jury found it liable for the death of a man who took its painkiller Vioxx.

Jurors in Texas awarded Robert Ernst's widow, Carol, $253million (£141 million) in damages.

Vioxx, an arthritis drug which was prescribed to 400,000 patients in the UK, was taken off the market at the end of last September after a three-year trial linked it to an increased risk of heart disease events.

Firms in London and Liverpool were understood to be representing at least 150 potential claimants, the BBC reported.

One possible claimant, Christine Peckham from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, told BBC Radio Four that Merck 'should pay'.

"Taking Vioxx ruined my life. I've been left partially paralysed, I've lost my sight and I've got epilepsy," she said.

"In total I'd been taking it for four years before they withdrew it from the market, but when I had my first stroke I'd been taking it for 22 months.

"Merck should be made to pay for what they've done for the people who've been taking the product, because they put their profits first, before lives."

Merck has vowed to fight more than 4,200 state and federal Vioxx-related lawsuits pending across the US.

The company added it plans to appeal yesterday's ruling.

Lawsuits have also been filed in Canada, Europe, Brazil, Australia and Israel.

The jury blamed the drug for killing Mr Ernst in his sleep in 2001.

Jurors rejected Merck's argument that he died of clogged arteries rather than a Vioxx-induced heart attack that led to his fatal arrhythmia.

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