Lawsuits Against Vioxx Maker Resurface


A federal appeals court revived a group of shareholder lawsuits that accused the makers of Vioxx, Merck & Co., of violating their duties by concealing the health risks of the company’s popular painkiller. A three-judge panel ruled that the lawsuits should be sent back to the New Jersey federal judge who dismissed them in May 2006.

Vioxx was once a $2.5 billion-a-year top-selling arthritis drug but was taken off the market in 2004 after a study found that Vioxx users had a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and death than patients taking dummy pills. The appeals court decided that the Judge Stanley Chesler erred when he did not allow the plaintiffs to amend their complaint with additional materials. Chesler had ruled on the ground that those materials were acquired as a result of a consensual discovery agreement.

Since it is a shareholder lawsuit, the plaintiffs normally would have been required to first make a demand on the Merck’s Board of Directors, but the plaintiffs said such a demand would have been useless at the time they began the lawsuit.