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40,000 BRIT 'VICTIMS' OF pounds 141m PAYOUT DRUG GIANT.

Byline: By JOHN KELLY and LUCY LAWRENCE

FORTY thousand British users of painkiller Vioxx could make claims against pharmaceutical giant Merck.

The firm is to appeal against a pounds 141million damages award in the United States on Friday to the widow of a Vioxx user.

The drug was withdrawn late last year after links to an increased risk of heart attacks.

Merck was already facing hundreds of claims from Britons over the arthritis drug. But after the massive award in Texas to Carol Ernst - whose husband Robert died from a heart attack while on Vioxx - lawyers expect to be deluged.

London-based solicitors Leigh, Day and Co will bring its first group action of 150 claimants next month. Liverpool solicitors MSB said yesterday calls were "flooding in". MSB spokesman Russel Spargo said: "The drug has been used by 400,000 Britons.

"It caused problems in 10 per cent of cases, so there are a possible 40,000 cases.

"The issue for our clients is not the money, but what Merck did. There were known problems with Vioxx in 1997, two years before it went on the market."

Merck shares fell 7.7 per cent on Friday, wiping billions off its stock market value. Analysts warned that Merck could have to pay out up to pounds 12billion worldwide with lawsuits in the US, Canada, Europe, Brazil, Australia and Israel.

Christine Peckham of Skelmersdale, Lancs, is one of 60 "key cases" in Britain.

Christine, 53, took Vioxx for five years, suffering two strokes that have left her blind and epileptic.

She said: I want someone from Merck to stand in front of me and tell me why he did this to me."
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 21, 2005
Words:279
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