Arthritis drug Vioxx doubled heart attack risk

Written by Changing Habits

March 9, 2010

Vioxx a drug for arthritis, was withdrawn from sale in 2004.  Next week is Arthritis week, if you are taking drugs for your arthritis perhaps you need to know the side affects and consult your doctor for lifestyle changes.  Also read my report on Arthritis

Cyndi O’Meara


The Federal Court has ruled that the controversial arthritis drug Vioxx was a defective drug that doubled the risk of heart attacks in its users.

Melbourne man Graeme Peterson has been awarded $287,000 compensation, and the judgement is expected to have consequences for the 500 other participants in a class action against Vioxx’s manufacturer, the drug company Merck.

Vioxx became part of the biggest and most expensive recall in history when it was voluntarily withdrawn from worldwide sale in 2004 over health concerns.

Mr Peterson became the face of a class action law suit when he took legal action against US firm Merck, and its Australian subsidiary, Merck Sharpe & Dohme.

Today Justice Christopher Jessup ruled the drug contributed to Mr Peterson’s heart attack and he deserved compensation.

The decision found that Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attack for users and was a defective product unsuitable to treat arthritic pain under the Trades Practices Act.

Justice Jessup told the court a clinical trial in 2000 showed “worrisome and important signals” of the cardiovascular risk posed by Vioxx, but he dismissed claims the company had “turned a blind eye” to the results.

However, he ruled failure by Merck’s Australian arm to warn doctors of the risks, instead emphasising its safety, amounted to misleading conduct.

Lawyer Peter Gordon, who represents Mr Peterson, says the findings are a victory for the ages.

“It’s a victory for justice,” he said.

“Vioxx has been proven to be a dangerous drug that should not have been promoted.”

Mr Gordon has called on Merck to settle with the Australian Vioxx users who are part of the settlement.

He is demanding $150 million in damages but says that figure could reach up to $230 million if more people affected by the drug come forward.

Mr Peterson says the court case has never been about the money.

He says Merck has shown absolute contempt for Australians when it failed to include them in a US settlement.

In the US, Merck paid $US4.85 billion in settlement to 44,000 Vioxx users, but it made no admission of guilt.

Today’s judgement found Merck had not failed to carry out sufficient research and investigation in response to a 2000 clinical trial.

Vioxx was from the family of wonder-drugs, the “COX-2 inhibitors”, and was widely proclaimed as having a lower risk of stomach problems than other anti-arthritic drugs.

It was used by 300,000 people in Australia and tens of millions worldwide before it was pulled off the shelves.

Source: Sarah Farnsworth, 5 March 2010,

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