A Texas court has overturned a multimillion-dollar verdict in a Vioxx case.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said the family of 71-year-old Leonel Garza didn't prove that a 23-year battle with heart disease had not led to the fatal heart attack in 2001.
Garza had been taking Vioxx for less than a month when he died.
In 2004, Vioxx was taken off the market after studies showed it doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. That led to numerous lawsuits against Merck, which has a $4.85-billion US settlement pending to end the bulk of the personal injury suits.
Garza's family was originally awarded $32 million two years ago, though damage caps cut that to about $8 million.
During the trial in Harlingen, Texas, Merck lawyers argued that Garza's heart attack was the end result of his 23 years of heart disease, news agency AP reports.
"Today's decision reaffirms that there is simply no reliable scientific evidence that Vioxx caused Mr. Garza's heart attack," Ted Mayer, Merck's outside legal counsel, said in a statement.
After the trial, a juror admitted borrowing thousands of dollars from Garza's widow, Felicia Garza, although that does not seem to have been a factor in Wednesday's appellate court decision.
Merck shares rose 70 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $39.87 in afternoon trading Wednesday. Shares have traded between $36.80 and $61.62 over the past 52 weeks.