Expert Witness Certification is Critical Feature in Vioxx Lawsuit

A federal judge has ordered a third trial in a lawsuit by a woman who blamed Merck & Co.’s painkiller Vioxx for the heart attack that killed her husband. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon ruled that the cardiology expert witness who testified for Merck misrepresented his qualifications in the second trial last year. Jurors ruled in favor of Merck and against Evelyn Irvin Plunkett, whose first husband, Richard Irvin, died of a heart attack after taking Vioxx for less than a month.

Expert witness Dr. Barry Rayburn, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, testified in Plunkett’s second trial that the drug could not have caused Irvin’s heart attack. When he was brought to the stand, he was asked whether he was board-certified. His answer was, “Yes, I passed boards in internal medicine and in cardiovascular disease” but his certification had lapsed at the time. Rayburn then passed the board examinations for recertification in 2006, reports