In the Region

N.J. court dismisses Merck appeal

Merck & Co.'s appeal of a $4.5 million jury award to a New Jersey man who blamed his heart attack on the company's Vioxx painkiller was dismissed by an appeals court, lawyers for the man's family said yesterday. The New Jersey Supreme Court threw out the drugmaker's challenges to the 2006 jury verdict for John McDarby, who died while the case was on appeal, the Weitz & Luxenberg PC law firm said in a statement. The court's decision means Merck will have to pay at least $4.5 million in damages to McDarby's family, his lawyers said. Merck, which has major operations in the Philadelphia area, won 11 of 16 Vioxx suits at trial before agreeing in 2007 to create a $4.85 billion settlement fund to resolve thousands of injury claims related to the drug. Company executives are "considering their options" after the court's decision, Ron Rogers, a Merck spokesman, said. - Bloomberg News

Doctor: Paxil doesn't cause defect

GlaxoSmithKline PLC's Paxil antidepressant doesn't cause birth defects or heart defects when used during pregnancy, a doctor testified for the company during a trial in Philadelphia, where Glaxo has major operations. Anthony Scialli, a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology at Georgetown University Medical Center, told jurors that 65 percent of birth defects have no known cause. Yesterday marked the start of Glaxo's defense in a trial over allegations Paxil caused birth defects in Lyam Kilker, 3. - Bloomberg News

AstraZeneca gets further EU approval

AstraZeneca PLC said a European Union panel had approved the use of Seroquel for preventing the recurrence of bipolar disorder. Seroquel and Seroquel XR are already approved under the European Union's Mutual Recognition Procedure - which allows approval in one country to clear the way for marketing authorizations across the region - for acute depressive and manic episodes, as well as schizophrenia. AstraZeneca has U.S. headquarters in Wilmington and other operations in Philadelphia and Bensalem. - AP

Capitol event flooded by opponents

A news conference at Pennsylvania's state Capitol about legislation banning work rules favorable to unions in state-funded construction projects drew protesters. Hundreds of unionized construction workers drowned out Republican state Reps. Stan Saylor and John Bear when they tried to speak out yesterday against the "project labor agreements." Some testy exchanges and pushing and shoving followed. PLA opponents say the agreements drive up the cost of taxpayer-paid projects by requiring winning bidders to honor union wages and rules for a specific project. Union officials say the requirements ensure that experienced tradesmen and Pennsylvania residents work on taxpayer-funded projects. - AP

Area jobless rate rises to 8.7 percent

Unemployment in the Philadelphia area rose 0.2 percentage points in August to 8.7 percent of the workforce, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry said. There were 20,000 fewer people working in August than in July, while unemployment increased by 5,300. In the City of Philadelphia, the jobless rate rose to 10.5 percent last month from 10.3 percent in July. The local area covers Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and parts of Delaware and Northern Maryland. - Paul Schweizer

Local average pay higher than U.S.

Average pay in the Philadelphia region was 5 percent above the national average last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. By category, pay locally was highest for professional occupations - at 7 percent above the national average. Pay in the service and the management/

financial fields was 4 percent higher than nationally, but salespeople in the area earned 3 percent less. The local region consists of the immediate eight-county Philadelphia area, the Vineland area, and parts of Delaware and Northern Maryland. - Paul Schweizer

Aker launches its 8th tanker

Aker Philadelphia Shipyard has launched its eighth tanker in a series of 12 product tankers. The 10,000-ton ship was floated and moved on Sunday to another dock, where it will undergo testing and sea trials in preparation for delivery in several weeks, Aker said. The vessel will be named Overseas Cascade, and will carry crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico for Petrobras SA, of Brazil, which is chartering the ship from OSG America L.P. The tanker is part of a series of 12 being built at the Philadelphia shipyard, with the last one scheduled to be completed in spring 2011. Aker Shipyard is in various stages of building three other ships. - Linda Loyd

Elsewhere

Fed proposes credit card rules

The Federal Reserve proposed rules to better protect Americans from sudden increases in interest rates on credit cards. The proposal would generally bar rate increases during the first year after an account is opened. It also would ban - with a few exceptions - increasing the rate on existing credit card balances. The proposal also would require credit card companies to obtain customers' consent before charging fees or transactions that exceed their credit limit, and would forbid companies from issuing credit cards to people under the age of 21 unless they are able to make the required payments or have a cosigner. - AP

Endowment loss less than projected

Princeton University's investments lost 24 percent in the year ended June 30, less than the 30 percent loss the school had projected. The school's endowment fell to $12.6 billion, including the loss and gifts from donors, President Shirley Tilghman said in a letter. Princeton decided this year not to use money from the endowment to fund operations so it wouldn't be forced to sell assets in falling financial markets. Princeton now anticipates having to fire fewer workers; this summer, 145 out of 460 eligible staff members took a voluntary buyout. - Bloomberg News

Conn. gets $25 million over Zyprexa

Connecticut officials say Eli Lilly & Co. has agreed to a $25 million settlement with the state over allegations the drugmaker marketed its antipsychotic drug Zyprexa for unapproved uses and harmed patients. Lilly settled similar federal claims for $1.42 billion in January. A spokeswoman says the company admits no wrongdoing. - AP