Merck Pharmaceuticals has won a significant victory after a US Court decision denied a request for a class-action lawsuit mounted by people who used Vioxx, its withdrawn painkiller for treating arthritis.
The decision means that all the 7,000 federal lawsuits against Merck by those who claim that taking Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks or strokes must be contested individually.
A class-action lawsuit would have given the plaintiffs more leverage against Merck, as lawyers would have sued on behalf of all the alleged victims.
Ted Mayer of Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, Merck’s outside counsel, said: “We are pleased by the order because it reaffirms our view that every case is different and should be tried individually.”
Mike Ward, an analyst at Nomura Code Securities, said: “This is good news for Merck. It means that some of these people will go away, and others will reassess what they will be doing.”
Despite Wednesday’s ruling by federal Judge Eldon Fallon of New Orleans, Merck still faces almost 24,000 federal and state lawsuits. About 3,000 cases have already been dismissed, but 1,900 of these were dismissed without prejudice, which means the lawsuit can be brought to another court.
Only 16 cases have gone through so far, and four were found in favour of the plaintiffs, seven were decided in Merck’s favour, and five were dismissed.