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Health

North Side woman sues Vioxx maker after stroke

| Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005

A North Side woman who says the prescription painkiller Vioxx caused her stroke last year is the first person to sue the drug's maker in Allegheny County Court following the nationwide recall of the pill.

Saundra Southern, 54, sued New Jersey-based Merck & Co. on Monday, seeking unspecified damages for what her lawyer called in court papers its "reckless indifference to the interest of the consumers."

"She thought Vioxx would help her, and it ended up almost killing her," Turtle Creek attorney Peter J. Payne said Tuesday.

About 700 people nationwide have sued Merck, which recalled Vioxx on Sept. 30 after a company study found it doubled heart attack and stroke risk after 18 months of daily use.

Three other people last month filed notice in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court that they would sue Merck.

Southern, a mother of two, took Vioxx for arthritis from September 2001 until her stroke in February 2004, her lawsuit states. Payne said she had none of the risk factors associated with stroke and that Southern now has partial paralysis on her left side.

The lawsuit contends that Merck knew about the increased risk of heart problems in Vioxx patients as early as 2000, but the company did not properly warn users.

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