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Kentucky Man Sues Over Vioxx

A Kentucky man has filed a class action lawsuit against the maker of Vioxx, the recently recalled arthritis drug.

James Ratliff filed suit against Merck & Co. on Friday in Pike County Circuit Court, his attorneys at the Lexington law firm of Getty & Mayo said Monday.

The suit claims Merck deceived its customers by promoting Vioxx as being safe and said the company knew the drug had safety risks associated with its use.

Ratliff did not suffer a heart attack or stroke, his attorney told CBSNews.com.

"This is limited only to only being a consumer fraud case," said Mason Miller. "Merck today and the pharmaceutical companies today are similar with respect to their advertising mechanisms to the tobacco companies of several decades ago."

The state is exploring the possibility of bringing its own suit, just as was the case in the tobacco cases, Miller, a partner at Getty & Mayo, said.

Tracy Ogden, a spokeswoman for the company, had no immediate comment on the suit.

New Jersey-based Merck announced Sept. 30 that it was pulling the medication from shelves over fears users faced increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The lawsuit was filed as a class action although Radcliff is the only named plaintiff. He is asking for damages of up to $75,000 and the creation of a fund to pay for future economic losses and medical care.

Ratliff claims in his suit that the company knew about the drug's risks since "shortly after the drug was approved for use" by the federal Food and Drug Administration in May 1999. He said that despite growing evidence of the drug's problems, Merck continued to market the drug.

Merck is one of the world's largest drug makers, and Vioxx was its popular medication for arthritis as well as acute pain and disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The drug accounted for $2.5 billion in worldwide sales last year.

Some 84 million prescriptions have been filled since the drug's introduction.

The Lexington law firm filed a federal suit on behalf of two Bourbon County residents earlier this month. Similar lawsuits are in the works across the country.

Merck & Co. said earlier this month that hundreds of lawsuits have been filed related to the drug. The pharmaceutical giant's profit fell 29 percent in the third quarter due to costs for pulling Vioxx from the market.

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