FDAnews Drug Daily Bulletin


April 5, 2006

New Jersey appeals court has cleared the way for a nationwide class action lawsuit brought by third-party payers of Vioxx against the drug's manufacturer Merck.

The unanimous decision by the New Jersey Appellate Division concluded that New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol E. Higbee acted properly in certifying a nationwide class action, which consists of all nongovernmental health plans that paid for members' Vioxx (rofecoxib) prescriptions.

Merck said it plans to appeal the decision to the New Jersey Supreme Court, according to newswire reports.

If the class action suit proceeds, plaintiffs will seek reimbursement for the health plans that provided Vioxx to their members. Plaintiffs also would be entitled to triple damages under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, according to attorneys representing the plans. The lawsuit alleges Merck engaged in widespread and systematic concealment of information concerning the health risks associated with Vioxx.

So far, the company has faced only a handful of individual-plaintiff lawsuits over Vioxx, which Merck pulled in September 2004 after the drug was linked to increased rates of heart attack and stroke. Nearly 10,000 lawsuits are currently pending against Merck. The latest Vioxx trial is set to conclude soon in a New Jersey state court.

A federal court jury in February found no link between Vioxx and a heart attack that led to the death of a Florida man who had taken the medicine.