Jumat, 07 September 2007

Merck Avoids a Class-Action Lawsuit Over Vioxx

Yesterday the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected a class-action lawsuit brought against Merck by a union health plan. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 68 in Caldwell, N.J. was seeking a class-action lawsuit representing all of the insurance companies nationwide that had ever paid for Vioxx prescriptions as part of their health care plans. The court ruled that a single nationwide class-action lawsuit was not appropriate under the circumstances. Each insurance company will now have to sue Merck on their own (or not).

The ruling is a victory for Merck. However, Merck still faces an estimated 27,000 lawsuits from individual patients who claim that Vioxx causes strokes and heart attacks, and that the company knew it long before the drug was pulled from the market. Merck has vowed to fight each and every lawsuit one at a time. So far the strategy is working – Merck has won nine and lost five. At this rate, most of the patients will be dead from other causes long before they ever see a dime from Merck.

By the way, remember Mr. Leonell Garza, the 71-year-old man described in the Current Issue feature in Human Biology, 5th ed. (pp. 182-183) whose family was suing Merck for $1 billion in damages? A Texas jury awarded the family $32 million, but that had to be reduced to $7.75 million by Texas law. Merck is appealing. Stay tuned!

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