From the NY Times today:
In interviews, several jurors said they had intended the verdict, which included $229 million in punitive damages, not to reward Mrs. Ernst but to punish Merck for its actions. Derrick Chizer, one of the jurors, said that the jury wanted to send Merck and the drug industry a message: “Stop doing the minimum to put your drug on the market.” Other jurors made similar comments.
The $229 million punitive damages figure was not picked at random, but referred to a 2001 Merck estimate of additional profit the company might make if it could delay an F.D.A. warning on Vioxx’s heart risk. Mr. Lanier mentioned that monetary figure in his closing argument.