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Lawyers line up claims.

British law firms were today preparing to sue pharmaceutical giant Merck after a US jury found it liable for the death of a man who took its painkiller Vioxx.

Jurors in Texas awarded Robert Ernst's widow Carol $253m (pounds 141m) in damages.

Vioxx, an arthritis drug which was prescribed to 400,000 patients in the UK, was taken off the market at the end of last September after a three-year trial linked it to an increased risk of heart disease.

Firms in London and Liverpool were understood to be representing at least 150 potential claimants, the BBC reported. Merck has vowed to fight more than 4,200 state and federal Vioxx-related lawsuits pending across the US and plans to appeal yesterday's ruling.

Lawsuits have also been filed in Canada, Europe, Brazil, Australia and Israel.

The jury blamed the drug for killing Mr Ernst in his sleep in 2001.

Jurors rejected Merck's argument that he died of clogged arteries rather than a Vioxx-induced heart attack that led to his fatal arrhythmia.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 20, 2005
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