Damaging evidence has been given against Merck, the US pharmaceuticals giant, by a leading medical expert in the latest court case brought by a user of Vioxx, the painkiller linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Benedict Lucchesi, a pharmacologist at the University of Michigan, said that Vioxx encourages dangerous blood clotting that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. He is the first expert to testify for a man who blames Vioxx for his heart attack and is suing Merck.
In his testimony at a court in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Friday, Lucchesi said Vioxx and other similar drugs, known as Cox-2 inhibitors, can cause blood clots or thrombo-embolisms that break loose and plug blood vessels.
“The probability is very high that Vioxx and Cox-2 inhibitors, but mostly Vioxx, can lead to the development of thromboembolic events,” he said. “There is a big probability that Vioxx does pose a risk to patients with underlying disorders.”
Lucchesi’s testimony supported claims by the plaintiff, Frederick Humeston, that Merck had warnings about the dangers of Vioxx years before withdrawing it last year because of health concerns.