Big Pharma's Bitter Pill

Merck's Vioxx setback

It was bad enough for Merck shareholders that the firm's top drugs, Zocor and Fosamax, are going off patent over the next three years and that the pipeline looks thin. Now investors may have to stomach another bitter pill. A Texas jury last week awarded $253.5 million to the widow of a man who died after taking the painkiller Vioxx. In the first verdict reached in more than 4,000 liability cases involving the drug--which Merck recalled last year after studies indicated a possible link to heart failure--the award cast doubt on Merck's strategy of fighting each case individually rather than seeking to...

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