Jury Chosen for Seventh Vioxx Trial

A jury of five women and five men was selected Friday in Atlantic City, N.J. for the seventh trial against drugmaker Merck & Co. over its withdrawn arthritis drug Vioxx.

Opening statements were set to begin Monday morning in New Jersey Superior Court in the case of Elaine Doherty, 68, who alleges the painkiller caused her heart attack and subsequent double heart bypass surgery in January 2004.

The grandmother of seven had been taking Vioxx for arthritis in her knees and hands for about 21/2 years when she was stricken. The Lawrenceville resident continued to take the drug for about eight months, until Whitehouse Station-based Merck pulled Vioxx from the market, saying its own research showed it doubled risk of heart attack and stroke after 18 months’ use.

State Superior Court Judge Carol E. Higbee instructed the jurors Friday afternoon not to do any research about the case over the weekend.

The jury panel, ranging in age from 23 to 63, is composed of residents of Atlantic County and appears to include several people employed by the casino industry, including a hotel concierge, a housekeeper, a surveillance director, a maintenance worker, a facilities technician and a dining room attendant. A legislative aide, a retail salesperson, an air traffic control manager and a disabled person also are on the jury.

The trial, the first involving a female Vioxx user, is expected to last about a month. It also will be the first trial since new Vioxx research results, recently disclosed by Merck, raised questions about how quickly the drug could cause harm, potentially undermining Merck’s credibility.