Merck & Co. Denied Vioxx Summary Judgment
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Merck & Co. Denied Vioxx Summary Judgment

A New Jersey Federal Judge denied summary judgment to a majority of securities fraud lawsuits pending against the pharmaceutical company.

Sunday, May 17, 2015 - Merck & Co.'s attempt to halt multidistrict litigation pertaining to their painkilling drug Vioxx was denied on May 14 by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler, located in New Jersey, ruled that the arguments put forth by the defendants were not sufficient to approve in total the summary judgement pursued by the company.

The litigation stems from allegations made by plaintiffs that Vioxx posed outsized cardiovascular risks compared to what Merck % Co. had led on in it's information provided to consumers. Research conducted on the topic revealed that while Vioxx posed a lesser risk to patients for gastronomical complications compared to the similar drug Aleve, it boosted the risk of heart attack by a factor of five. Vioxx also was connected to an increase in the risk of stroke for patients and connections to other cardiovascular complications.

Vioxx was first introduced in 1999, and the research that uncovered the medication's link to cardiovascular disease came out just a year later in 2000. After the research, which is known as the Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcomes Research or VIGOR, the drug stayed on the market for a few years until its retraction in 2004.

The plaintiffs that passed the most recent summary judgement bid are suing Merck & Co. for securities fraud claims, alleging their investments in the company were negatively affected due to the defendant's actions relating to Vioxx's cardiovascular problems. To date, the multidistrict litigation involving Vioxx has been pending more because than 10 years. The centralization of the investor's lawsuits took place recently however, their transfer to New Jersey taking place in 2013.

The investor's lawsuits took a long time to materialize and has taken an equally lengthy road through the court system. The tardiness of the securities suits nearly caused them to be thrown out as the case was initially dismissed before being revived by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which had their decision affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court hearing the case has even opined that litigation relating to Vioxx has taken a noticeably long time to resolve.

There were two categories for which Merck & Co. pursued summary judgment. One pertained to plaintiffs that were attempting to sue the defendants over false statements made before the VIGOR research was published. Judge Chesler granted summary judgment to the defendants concerning these lawsuits, claiming that there wasn't enough information available before VIGOR for Merck & Co. to intentionally mislead customers as to the potential harms of Vioxx.

The second and much larger group, however, encompassed the complaints that claimed false statements made by Merck & Co. after VIGOR had been published. Summary judgment was denied to these claims as the judge ruled that these accusations should proceed given the evidence provided.

The judge in his decision to allow the lawsuits to proceed made a point to draw the distinction between those affected by the medication and those affected by the stock consequences in the case, this story chronicling the events of the latter. There was a settlement reached between Merck & Co. and patients affected by Vioxx in 2007 for a staggering $4.85 billion. The company also paid close to $1 billion in criminal fees in 2001 soon after the findings of VIGOR were published.

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