Bloomberg News

Merck Australia Wins Bid to Overturn Vioxx Trial Decision

October 11, 2011

(Updates with Merck reaction in fourth paragraph.)

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Merck & Co.’s Australian unit won a bid to overturn the first trial decision outside the U.S. that said the drugmaker failed to warn of heart risks associated with its painkiller Vioxx.

The judgment against Merck should be set aside and the action should be dismissed, Justice Michelle Gordon said on behalf of the appeal panel in Federal Court in Melbourne today. The decision reverses a March 5, 2010, ruling that awarded Graeme Robert Peterson A$287,912 ($286,000), after he found Vioxx contributed to Peterson’s heart attack in 2003.

Merck withdrew Vioxx in 2004 after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based drugmaker won 11 of 16 Vioxx U.S. suits at trial before agreeing in 2007 to create a $4.85 billion settlement fund to resolve thousands of injury claims over the drug. The fund didn’t apply to cases outside the U.S.

“The company is satisfied with this outcome and is in the process of reviewing the full judgment,” Merck said in an e- mailed statement today. “The Full Court held that Vioxx was not proven to be the cause of the applicant’s” heart attack.

Plaintiffs’ experts have said Merck distorted the health risks of Vioxx in medical literature, advertisements and statements to doctors by sales representatives.

The damages relate to Merck’s MSD Australia unit and Justice Christopher Jessup, who ruled against the drugmaker last year, dismissed allegations Peterson made against the parent company, Merck & Co., that it should have withdrawn Vioxx from sale before it did in September 2004.

The case is Graeme Robert Peterson v Merck Sharpe & Dohme (Australia) Pty Ltd. and Merck & Co, Inc., VID 570/2010, Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia (Melbourne).

--Editors: Douglas Wong, Jason Gale

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Fenner in Melbourne at rfenner@bloomberg.net; Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net; Neil Denslow at ndenslow@bloomberg.net


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