Shares of Merck (NYSE: MRK) were down $2.35 or 7.3 percent to $28.06 after a Texas jury awarded $253.4 million to the widow of a man who died after using Vioxx. Investors were surprised by the size of the verdict and are increasingly concerned about the potential financial liability of several thousand remaining Vioxx cases.
Merck removed Vioxx from the market last year after a study showed the drug signficantly increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients. Later it was revealed that Merck was aware of that Vioxx could potentially cause cardiac problems but didn’t disclose this information to patients or doctors.
Merck’s stock has traded as high as $47.00 over the last 52 weeks. Today’s closing price of $28.06 represents a decline in Merck’s market capitalization of $41 billion compared to the stocks 52 week high. Shares of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) were down $.33 or 1.28 percent to $25.55 on concerns that the Vioxx verdict could foreshadow large litigation exposure from the thousands of Bextra and Celebrex suits it faces.