Vioxx lawsuit continues

    The Supreme Court has agreed to take on a dispute between Merck and its shareholders.

    If Sonia Sotomayor is appointed to the U-S Supreme Court, one of the cases she will consider is a lawsuit that shareholders have brought against the pharmaceutical company Merck. The court yesterday [Tuesday 5/27] agreed to consider Merck’s appeal for tossing out the lawsuit. From WHYY’s health and science desk, Kerry Grens reports.



    Shareholders are suing Merck, saying the company misled them regarding its recalled drug Vioxx. But before that fight can be resolved, the Supreme Court will consider whether shareholders acted quickly enough. The statute of limitations gave shareholders two years to sue from the time they became aware of Vioxx’s issues. Widener Law professor Larry Hamermesh says the justices will decide when the statute of limitations began.

    Hamermesh: At what point investors are supposed to be aware enough about a problem that the clock starts running on their ability to bring a lawsuit.

    Saint Joseph’s professor George Sillup says the timeframe between when shareholders became aware of Vioxx’s problems and when they filed suit was likely quite small.

    Sillup: Whenever something happens in the industry it resonates very very quickly, especially when patient safety might be in question.

    If shareholders acted too late, the lawsuit will be tossed out. Hamermesh says he expects Merck to prevail, based on the Supreme Court’s past decisions in similar lawsuits. In a statement, Merck said it is pleased the Supreme Court will consider its appeal. Vioxx was ultimately recalled, and Merck has agreed to pay billions in settlements to patients and their families.

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