State of Louisiana Loses Suit Seeking $20 Million Recovery
A recent verdict from Judge Eldon Fallon of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana is good news for pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.
From his New Orleans courtroom, Judge Fallon declared that the state of Louisiana could not recoup the dollars they spent to reimburse Merck for Vioxx prescriptions they provided to individuals qualified under the state's Medicaid program. The state argued that had they known the harmful information regarding Vioxx, the drug would have been excluded from the list of reimbursable drugs. The court disagreed and claimed the state failed to meet its burden of proving as such.
Vioxx was pulled off the market in 2004 following the release of a scientific study that associated its use with a doubled risk of heart attacks and strokes. In the aftermath of the drug's withdrawal, Merck faced numerous lawsuits filed by patients who were harmed by previously unknown serious side effects of the medicine. Merck won 11 of the 16 lawsuits, however, still decided to establish a multi-billion dollar settlement fund with which to compensate victims thereafter in order to avoid heading back to the courtroom.
This case differs from cases filed by individual patients. This case, filed on behalf of the state of Louisiana, instead seeks compensation for money the state paid to reimburse Merck for Vioxx prescriptions they provided to individuals under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program.
This case, brought by the Attorney General for the state of Louisiana, is the first of its kind to go to trial; a similar suit filed in Texas was dismissed before it would be heard by a judge and jury. There are currently 11 additional state-wide suits against Merck, five county suits and one by New York City health authorities still pending. Though the state of Louisiana is exploring options to appeal the verdict, this case could set a negative precedent for other pending suits.
Even though government agencies might eventually be barred from recovering payments paid to Merck under the Rebate Program, patients affected by Vioxx still have legal rights. If you suffered injuries caused by the proper use of Vioxx or another dangerous drug (or you tragically lost a loved one), you should consult a personal injury attorney in your area who has experience handling difficult cases involving defective medications.