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Reuters reports that Merck & Co. was granted a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by the Texas Attorney General's office against the drug maker over its pain killer Vioxx. The Texas AG brought the suit for alleged violations of the state's Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act.
The lawsuit sought a refund for the money that was spent for Vioxx pain treatment. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market over safety concerns. Reuters reports that Judge Scott Jenkins of Travis County ruled in favor of the drug company's motion for summary judgment. This is critical news because there are currently 11 similar lawsuits that have been filed by other states' attorneys general against Merck & Co. This is the first case to reach final judgment at the trial level.
This is the not first time that Merck & Co. has been in trouble over Vioxx. They voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market back in 2004 when it became publicly known that the drug increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes in long term users. A class action lawsuit by users of the drug resulted in a $4.85 billion settlement in 2007. We blogged about the settlement here.
Reuters also reported that a recent study has shown that Merck & Co. could have detected heart risks more than three years before the company actually withdrew Vioxx from the market. This knowledge, coupled with the class action lawsuit, spurred state attorneys general to file their own lawsuits against the drug company.
In addtion to the $4.85 billion class action settlement, Merck & Co. has already agreed to pay $58 million to 29 states and the District of Columbia in order to settle Vioxx probes with regards to state consumer protection laws.