AG Caldwell loses Vioxx lawsuit

John O'Brien Jun. 30, 2010, 4:59pm


NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge has shot down the state of Louisiana's claims that it would not have purchased Merck & Co.'s prescription drug Vioxx if it knew of the dangers associated with it.

U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon ruled against state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the private attorneys hired to represent the state. They had argued the state would have restricted sales of the pain reliever if it had known it increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes in its users.

"The state of Louisiana did not meet their burden of showing that they could and would have established an exclusive formulary and excluded Vioxx from it had the state known different information about the drug," Fallon wrote.

"The record shows, in fact, that neither (the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals) nor any reasonable department of health and hospitals would have attempted to establish an exclusive Medicaid formulary for the sole purpose of cutting off reimbursements of Vioxx."

The lawsuit was filed in 2005 by former Attorney General Charles Foti. The state was represented by New Orleans' Murray Law Firm and attorney David Lyman Browne.

The Murray firm gave Caldwell $5,000 for his campaign in 2007.

Vioxx was taken off the market in 2004 after Merck learned of the side effects.

"We believe the evidence showed that Merck acted appropriately by labeling Vioxx under the direction of the (Food and Drug Administration) and according to the evolving science available at the time it was on the market," said Tarek Ismail, of Goldman Ismail Tomaselli Brennan & Baum LLP, outside counsel for Merck.

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