US pharmaceutical giant Merck could be bracing itself for hundreds of lawsuits in Australia after a judge ruled its arthritis drug Vioxx doubled the risk of a heart attack.
Judge Christopher Jessup awarded Graeme Peterson, a grandfather from Victoria, 287,000 Australian dollars (£171,000) in compensation.
Mr Peterson claimed Vioxx had caused him to have a heart attack in 2003.
At the Federal Court in Melbourne, Judge Jessup said he had concluded that “across a population the consumption of Vioxx about doubled the risk of heart attack”.
He added that the drug was therefore not fit to be used to treat arthritis.
Around 500 Australians could now make similar claims, according to law firm Slater and Gordon, in a move that could cost Merck up to $300 million Australian dollars (£179 million). The law firm added that there may be hundreds more patients unknown to them who have had similar problems with Vioxx.
The company said it disagreed with the ruling and would be launching an appeal.
Copyright Press Association 2010