Merck’s defense team has prevailed in another Vioxx case, this one in California, adding further support to Merck’s claims that class action treatment of these cases would be inappropriate. Merck also must present a defense against a class action lawsuit brought by insurers that alleges Merck defrauded them. Alex Berenson of the New York Times reports today that Merck’s aggressive stance and early successes have resulted in the voluntary dismissal of more than 300 federal lawsuits against the company, as plaintiffs’ attorneys reevaluate the upside of pursuing weak claims, though that still leaves pending roughly 14,000 such lawsuits. The class action defense notes the case-specific nature of each claim; as Berenson explains, “plaintiffs in Vioxx cases are usually older and have other risk factors for heart disease,” which makes it more difficult for the plaintiff’s lawyer to establish the causal connection between the drug and the plaintiff’s injury. Berenson also notes that several more cases are scheduled to go to trial this year, so it is still “far too early to declare a winner in the litigation.”
Mr. Berenson’s article, entitled “Legal Stance May Pay Off For Merck,” may be found in the August 4, 2006 edition of the New York Times.