ATLANTIC CITY -- The defense has rested in the second Vioxx product-liability trial after defendant Merck & Co. presented a cardiology specialist as its final witness.
Dr. John Michael Gaziano, a Harvard Medical School professor, told jurors yesterday that he believes there is no link between Vioxx and heart attacks, even with long-term use.
Gaziano said low doses of cox-2 inhibitors pose no more risk to users than dummy pills. Cox-2 inhibitors such as Vioxx block the enzyme that promotes inflammation but protect the stomach lining, unlike some other antiinflammatory drugs.
There is no proof that use of the now-withdrawn painkiller leads to increased risk of serious cardiovascular complications, Gaziano testified.
The seven-week trial has focused on an Idaho postal worker who blames his 2001 heart attack on Vioxx.
Frederick ''Mike" Humeston, 60, of Boise, Idaho, took Vioxx for about two months to relieve knee pain from a Vietnam War wound before he was stricken.
Merck acknowledges links to heart attacks and strokes after 18 months' use, but contends that Humeston had not been taking Vioxx long enough to be at risk.
Gaziano, an expert in cardiology and epidemiology testifying for Merck, contradicted statements of experts who asserted on Humeston's behalf that Vioxx caused Humeston's heart attack.
Merck blames the heart attack on Humeston, saying elevated blood pressure, excess weight, and on-the-job stress triggered the attack, which Humeston survived.
His case is one of more than 7,000 suits filed against Merck over Vioxx, and plaintiff lawyers say thousands more suits will be filed in the future.
In the first Vioxx trial, a Texas jury in August found Merck liable in a Vioxx user's death, awarding his widow $253 million. That will be cut to about $26 million because Texas caps punitive damages. Merck plans to appeal that verdict.
Closing arguments are expected to begin tomorrow.