Health Highlights: Aug. 21, 2007

The lawsuits were brought by people who contend that they or a loved one had a heart attack or stroke after taking Vioxx. The drug was taken off the market in 2004, after a clinical trial found that the drug increased the risk of heart attack when taken for 18 months or more.

To date, fewer than 20 Vioxx suits have reached juries. At the current rate, it will take years to work through the backlog of Vioxx cases and many plaintiffs may die before their case is heard in court, The Times reported.

Even if a plaintiff wins, it may take years to receive the financial award. Merck has appealed every case it has lost.

Merck maintains that it adequately warned patients and doctors of Vioxxs heart risks and that it never knowingly endangered patients. The company, which has spent more than $1 billion in legal fees over the last three years, has steadfastly refused the idea of an overall settlement to resolve all the lawsuits at once, The Times reported.

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