Pernsioner in battle with drugs company
A Holt pensioner who had a heart attack after taking painkillers prescribed by her doctors is still fighting for compensation five years later.As a teetotal non-smoker who was not overweight, Pamela Eaton never thought she was at risk from a heart attack.
A Holt pensioner who had a heart attack after taking painkillers prescribed by her doctors is still fighting for compensation five years later.
As a teetotal non-smoker who was not overweight, Pamela Eaton never thought she was at risk from a heart attack. But around three years after being put on Vioxx (rofecoxib) for her rheumatoid arthritis, she suffered a coronary. She spent several days in intensive care and had to have heart surgery.
Merck, the American drugs manufacturer which makes Vioxx, last November agreed compensation of $4.85bn (£2.86bn) to settle legal claims in the United States, without admitting liability. At the time there were 26,600 lawsuits involving 46,000 people, and the company said it feared that legal action might last years. Among individual court cases which have been resolved, the company has won 12 and lost five.
This week, it emerged that other people could have had heart attacks or strokes caused by Vioxx even if they were not already on it. A worldwide study published in the Lancet involving 2,000 patients found rofecoxib “substantially” increased the chances of dying or suffering a non-fatal stroke or heart attack even a year after stopping treatment. This would mean many more people would be able to seek compensation.
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British patients have tried to sue Merck through the American courts, but a New Jersey court last year ruled they would have to go through the British courts - which is prohibitively expensive, because funding is not available for personal injury claims.
There are thought to be around 500 people in this country who would have been eligible for compensation if they had lived in the United States.
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Earlier this year, the then health minister Ivan Lewis said the government would contact Merck to make sure they “fulfil their responsibilities”. But there is no sign of movement from Merck.
Mrs Eaton, 70, from Holt, said: “It doesn't really seem fair that they have got compensation in America. Clearly they should do the same in Britain.”
Her case has been taken up by her MP, Norman Lamb, who is part of a lobby of MPs pushing for compensation. Merck has so far failed to answer his letter asking them to think again.
He said: “I am not giving up on this. Most right-thinking people would agree that if you pay compensation in America, how on earth can you justify not paying compensation in another country?”