By JOHN CURRAN
Associated Press Writer
ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey- A courthouse hosting a high-profile drug liability trial was evacuated Wednesday morning after the discovery of a device used by police training in explosive detection caused a bomb scare, authorities said.Bomb technicians, police and firefighters responded to the scare at the courthouse, where a case against Merck & Co. over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx is in its third week.
Police Lt. Michael Tullio said the device, which he would not describe, is used by police to train officers in building security. It apparently had been left behind after a training exercise, but it was treated as possible explosive because officials could not immediately recall when it had been placed in the courthouse.
People were allowed back into court after about an hour and a half.
Tullio said the large response by emergency responders was due to the high-profile nature of the trial over Vioxx. The drug was pulled off the market by Whitehouse Station-based Merck in September 2004 after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes when used for more than 18 months. Two New Jersey men are suing the company, blaming the drug for their heart attacks.
In all, Merck faces about 9,650 civil suits filed by former Vioxx users or their survivors.