Supreme Court rejects Vioxx class action
September 11, 2007
In a major legal victory for Merck & Co. in its massive Vioxx litigation, New Jersey''s Supreme Court recently rejected a potential class-action lawsuit that could have cost the drugmaker up to $18 billion, the Associated Press reports. New Jersey''s highest court, reversing two lower-court decisions, ruled a nationwide class was not appropriate. The lawsuit had been brought by a union health plan on behalf of all insurance plans that paid for prescriptions for the withdrawn painkiller—roughly 80 percent of all Vioxx sold. The plaintiffs'' lead lawyer, Chris Seeger, said he will now proceed with individual lawsuits seeking to recoup what insurance plans paid for the widely used arthritis treatment, which Merck pulled from the market three years ago because it doubled risk of heart attacks and strokes. Vioxx was then Merck''s No. 2 drug, with about $2.5 billion in annual sales. Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck faces nearly 27,000 individual lawsuits from people claiming Vioxx caused heart attacks and strokes, but more than 1,170 cases have been dismissed permanently. Of cases that have reached verdicts, Merck has won nine and lost five; a new trial was ordered in another case.