Saturday, August 13, 2005


Merck’s Expert Cardiologist Testifies Vioxx Did Not Cause Death

Angleton, TX—On Friday, jurors heard testimony from Merck’s expert cardiologist, Dr. Craig Pratt.

Dr. Pratt attended UCLA as an undergraduate and UC Davis medical school. He serves on the Methodist Hospital Research Committee and runs its coronary care unit. Dr. Pratt is a clinician who has seen more than 10,000 myocardial infarctions in the last 25 years and has extensive experience with clinical trials, including trials of clot-busting drugs.

On cross-examination, Dr. Pratt conceded that he earns about 20% of his income and up to $100,000 per year from testifying as an expert. He also acknowledged consulting for a company associated with Merck and having worked on Baycol cases with Merck’s attorney, Gerry Lowry.

Dr. Pratt addressed how Bob Ernst, who was a marathon runner, could have died in his sleep as opposed to during stressful exercise like running. While it may seem counter-intuitive that an active person like Bob Ernst died in his sleep instead of during exercise, a “significant number” of people die under such circumstances. Mental anguish, stress, and anxiety can lead to more alterations in coronary flow than peak exercise.

As one might anticipate, Dr. Pratt testified that Mr. Ernst died of an arrhythmia. Disagreeing with the ER Report and the coroner who testified that Mr. Ernst died of an MI, Dr. Pratt testified, “I don’t think this patient had an MI [myocardial infarction] or a clot.” None of the medical evidence in this case suggests that Mr. Ernst died from a myocardial infarction, according to Dr. Pratt. Since Mr. Ernst died so suddenly, one would expect to have seen evidence of a clot if that in fact caused his death. There was no evidence of a clot and Dr. Pratt knows of no evidence that Vioxx causes arrhythmias.

Dr. Pratt and Lanier argued about the results of several articles about the amount of blockage necessary to cause death without a clot. According to the coroner’s report, Bob Ernst’s heart arteries were blocked by a build up of plaque in some areas up to 75%. Merck argues that this build up alone lead to Mr. Ernst’s death. The plaintiffs argue, however, that Vioxx caused Mr. Ernst’s body to form a clot, which lodged between the wall of a heart artery and a build up of plaque in that artery leading to his death. In support of this argument, plaintiffs argue that a blockage of 90% or greater is required to cause death without a clot, which Mr. Ernst did not have.

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