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Los Angeles-With only a few weeks before the start of its first California trial involving Vioxx, Merck & Co. is seeking to have one of the cases thrown out on statute of limitations grounds. The move comes shortly after Merck was hit with a recent jury verdict in Texas, and after damaging new data surfaced about the potential dangers of the pain reliever. A hearing on Merck’s motion for summary judgment in the case of a 73-year-old man who had a heart attack after taking Vioxx is scheduled for June 15. The case of Rudolph Arrigale is one of two planned for trial on June 21 in state court in Los Angeles before Judge Victoria Chaney. The other case was filed by Stewart Grossberg, who was 66 when he suffered a heart attack after taking Vioxx. In re Vioxx Coordinated Cases, No. JCCP 4247 (Los Angeles Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). The two Los Angeles suits are among 1,800 cases in California filed against Merck since September 2004, when the company withdrew Vioxx from the market. Attorneys on both sides each got to select a case for trial. Merck’s motion comes soon after the company suffered a damaging $32 million verdict in Texas involving a 71-year-old man who died after taking Vioxx for less than a month. The verdict was the first against Merck involving a person who took Vioxx for a short period of time. Garza v. Evans (In re Vioxx Prods. Liab. Litig.), No. DC-03-84 (Starr Co., Texas, Dist. Ct.). Merck also was dealt a setback after new data found that Vioxx users had a risk of heart attack after taking the drug for as little as two weeks. Re-evaluating approach? “In light of the recent verdicts, and that recent study, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were re-evaluating their approach to individual cases,” said Thomas Dewey, a partner at New York-based Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky who specializes in complex civil litigation but is not involved in the Vioxx cases. Calls to Merck were referred to the company’s Los Angeles lawyer, Ralph Campillo, a partner at San Francisco-based Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold. Campillo said that the recent survey and jury verdict have nothing to do with the summary judgment motion, which argues that the case should be thrown out because it was filed after the statute of limitations ran. “The statute of limitations issue has nothing to do with whether a patient was exposed for one day or five years,” he said. Also, he added, “how we defend these cases is not impacted by what happened in other trials.” Last month, a survey published by the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that Vioxx users suffered a risk of heart attacks after only two weeks. But Merck has countered that people who stopped using the drug for a year had no greater risk of heart attacks or strokes. Also, Merck admitted an error in describing the methodology of a2005 statistical test, which some critics say undermines the company�scontention that the risks of Vioxx increased only if patients took the drug for18 months or more.

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