Saturday, October 22, 2005

Hassans set up Vioxx legal claims team

Local legal firm Hassans has set up a specialist team of lawyers to advise on possible cases of people affected negatively by a pain relief drug.

In a landmark decision, on 19 August 2005 a jury in Texas, USA awarded a $253.4m (approximately £141m) settlement to the widow of a US man who died after using a drug designed to provide relief from the debilitating and painful effects of arthritis.

Hassans said it had issued a press release to highlight the fact that the case could have implications for what appears to be large number of Gibraltarians who have taken the drug, better known locally by its generic name, ROFECOXIB.

The US court found Merck, a multi-billion dollar US pharmaceutical company, negligent as a result of its manufacture of Vioxx which had contributed to the death of 59-year-old Robert Ernst, in the first of what could be as many as 4,200 similar lawsuits worldwide.

The drug is reported to have been taken by about 20m people worldwide from 1999 until September 2004, including many people from Gibraltar. It was apparently promoted as being a safe painkiller without any of the side effects such as stomach problems associated with aspirin and similar drugs. Although prescribed mainly to arthritis sufferers, it will also be familiar to other patients suffering from sporting and other injuries. US government research has however estimated that as many as 27,785 heart attacks or deaths may have been caused by the drug.

Following the judgment Mr Ernst’s widow Carol said she was only seeking the truth in her long fight for justice. “This has been a long road for me. But I felt strongly that this was the road I needed to take so other families wouldn’t suffer the same pain I felt at the time,” she told reporters.

Throughout, Merck have denied liability and initially vowed to appeal the decision although they have since indicated that it would consider settling some cases on an amicable basis.

In the meantime Hassans say that rofecoxib appears to have been widely used within Gibraltar and Ian Winch, a lawyer who is a specialist in class actions against pharmaceutical companies at Hassans, is working on this issue with Gillian Guzman and believes that this is already causing concern to some in the community. Mr. Winch highlighted the importance for those people who may have been affected to take expert legal advice.

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