A Texas jury found Merck & Co. negligent in the first wrongful death lawsuit over its recalled blockbuster drug Vioxx and awarded $253.4 million in damages to the widow of a man who died of heart arrhythmia after taking the painkiller for about eight months.
Merck said it will appeal and is examining various bases for doing so. "There is no reliable scientific evidence that shows Vioxx causes cardiac arrhythmias," a member of Merck's defense team said in a news release.
The verdict could spur additional lawsuits, with Merck potentially liable for even more than the $18 billion estimated by some, the Associated Press reported.
Merck had been expected to win what was considered a weak case, the AP said.
The drug company pulled Vioxx from the market last September following a study that found it increased patients' risk of heart attacks and strokes after 18 months of use.