A federal court judge, Justice Christopher Jessup has ruled that the popular anti-arthritis drug Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attacks and was not fit for sale.

Mr. Graeme Peterson, who sued the US pharmaceutical giant Merck by claiming that the heart attack contributed by the use of the drug in 2003 compromised his ability to work, was awarded a compensation of $278,000 plus interest.

Judge Jessup concluded that the risk of heart attack was doubled up across a population that used Vioxx as arthritis relief.

I have held that because Vioxx involved about a doubling of the risk of heart attack, it was not reasonably fit for the purpose of being used for the relief of arthritic pain, said Judge Jessup.

On behalf of every Australian Mr. Peterson who used the drug at the beginning of its launch in 2001 to its voluntary recall in September 2004, has claimed that Vioxx had played a role in causing the heart attack experienced in December 2003.

He also made an allegation last year that Merck & Co and its Australian subsidiary, Merck, Sharp and Dohme, knew about the risks of cardiovascular arrests of the drug but covered it up to engage in unethical marketing strategies.

Merck settled hundred of lawsuits over Vioxx in the US for $US4.8 billion in the late 2007 without admitting any liability and this was the first civil trial against the pharmaceutical giant outside the US.

There were allegations that Merck created a hit list of doctors critical of the drug that needed to be neutralized. Trained sales representatives in a Men in Black style were used to overcome the worries that Vioxx caused heart attacks, and songs using Ricky Martin-style music singing to the line of Go Vioxx, go Vioxx, go Vioxx!!! were applied to motivate the sales staff.

The giant corporation Merck declared that it will appeal the decision.