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Vioxx Plaintiff Drops Suit, Merck Says

Merck said a plaintiff who alleged the drugmaker's Vioxx painkiller caused her husband's heart attack and death dropped her lawsuit five weeks before the trial was to start.

The company said the suit would have been the first Vioxx case to go to trial in Philadelphia.

Merck faces more than 27,000 Vioxx lawsuits. The company withdrew the drug in 2004 after a clinical trial found it increased the rate of heart attacks.

An attorney for the plaintiff, Angela McCool, was not immediately available for comment.

The latest suit was voluntarily dismissed "with prejudice," meaning it cannot be filed again, Merck said.

As of Sept. 30, claims related to more than 3,000 alleged Vioxx users have been dismissed before being scheduled for trial, including more than 1,100 dismissed with prejudice, the company said.

Merck has consistently said it will fight each case on a one by one basis rather than submit to a large settlement.

In trials that have reached a jury verdict so far, Merck has won nine and lost four, including one Merck victory that since has been thrown out.

Two Vioxx plaintiffs are set to begin their consolidated trial this week in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Last week, a Los Angeles judge declared mistrials in the cases of two men who blame Vioxx for their heart attacks after jurors became deadlocked over the question of whether the company gave adequate warning to their doctors.

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