Merck Gets A Vioxx Loss In Australia Overturned

Merck Gets A Vioxx Loss In Australia Overturned

October 12th, 2011 // 12:47 pm @

In a potentially significant victory, an Australian court has overturned a ruling last year that found merck liable for a heart attack that a Melbourne man suffered after taking the Vioxx painkiller, which was withdrawn in 2004 over links to heart attacks and strokes. The move by the drugmaker turned Vioxx into a poster child for drug safety and ratcheted up a heated debate about regulatory oversight.

Three years later, Merck reached a $4.85 billion settlement to resolve 44,000 lawsuits, but the deal only applied to cases in the US and there was no admission of guilt. The overturned verdict was the first case to go to trial in Australia and the initial outcome prompted forecasts Merck stood to lose many more of the 500 or so claims that were filed by Australians as part of a class action.

However, the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia disagreed with a federal court judge, who found Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attacks and was a defective product unsuitable to treat arthritic pain under the Trades Practices Act. The decision reversed the $287,000 award to Graeme Peterson, although Merck had not been found negligent for keeping Vioxx on the market prior to its withdrawal.

And so Justice Michelle Gordon, writing on behalf of the appeals court, determined that the initial judgment against Merck should be set aside and dismissed. A Merck spokesperson wrote Bloomberg News that the drugmaker is “satisfied with this outcome and is in the process of reviewing the full judgment. The Full Court held that Vioxx was not proven to be the cause” of Peterson’s heart attack.

Source: Pharmalot

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