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Legal step for ''Vioxx'' case Britons

KUN0055 4 GEN 0412 KUWAIT /KUNA-TOQ4 HLT-PAINKILLER-LEGAL Legal step for 'Vioxx' case Britons LONDON, Aug 22 (KUNA) -- A law firm representing Britons alleged to have suffered from their use of the painkiller 'Vioxx' is preparing to submit clients' medical records to US doctors, it was announced here Monday. After a US jury found 'Merck', the drugs' manufacturer, negligent in the death of a user, lawyers from the firm 'MSB' in Liverpool, northern England, said thousands of Britons could sue. The case of a woman Mrs Christine Peckham will be one of the first to be examined to see if 'Vioxx' made her ill, the lawyers said. "If a link can be established US attorneys will file the action...", they added. Mrs Peckham, from Lancashire, northern England, took the drug to relieve arthritic pain. As a result of her use, she claims to have suffered two strokes, which left her partially paralysed, visually impaired and epileptic. Lawyer Gerard Dervan said "We hope to have Christine's case ready for trial within 12 to 18 months. This is the start of a long fight". Britain's Legal Service Commission has decided not to fund any actions against 'Merck' so the case is being fought in the US, where a "no-win no-fee" system would apply. 'Vioxx', which was withdrawn last September amid safety concerns, was seen as a breakthrough in pain relief for arthritis sufferers because it did not have the same side effects as other drugs. But it was taken off the market after a long-term study found that the risk of heart attacks and strokes was doubled if patients took the drug for 18 months. The drug is known to have been taken by more than 20 million people worldwide before it was withdrawn. Almost 500,000 Britons have used it. It has been estimated that 'Vioxx' could have caused 27,785 heart attacks or deaths since it was approved for use in 1999. Worldwide, more than 4,200 lawsuits have been filed against 'Merck' over the drug. A jury in Texas last Friday awarded a 253.4 million dollars (141 million pounds) settlement to the widow of the US man who died suddenly after using 'Vioxx'. It found 'Merck' negligent in the death of 59-year-old Robert Ernst and the court also heard claims that 'Merck' had played down safety fears about the drug for a decade. But 'Merck' has always maintained that it investigated the safety issues as soon as they arose. It said there was no scientific base for the US ruling and it would appeal. (end) he.bz. KUNA 221535 Aug 05NNNN