LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)-A lawsuit against Merck & Co. over its pain medication Vioxx cannot proceed as a class action, a California judge has ruled.

The plaintiffs say they were harmed by the drug before it was pulled from the market in 2004. They are suing to recoup money the spent on the drug, which was found to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

They say the pharmaceutical giant, among other things, hid the risks associated with the a Cox 2-inhibitor drug.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney rejected their request for class action status, saying the patients and insurance companies cannot sue Merck as a group.

"Plaintiffs adduce no evidence indicating the inquiry can be conducted on a class-wide basis," Chaney wrote in her ruling.

In a statement, Merck praised the judge's ruling.

"The court rightly agreed this was not an appropriate case to proceed as a class action," said Ted Mayer of Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, outside counsel for Merck. "We believe that Merck's communications and representations about Vioxx's efficacy and safety were proper, accurate and timely."

A similar lawsuit in New Jersey that sought to recover money consumers paid for Vioxx was rejected in March.

The California plaintiffs are represented by the Los Angeles law firm of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck announced the April 30 ruling Friday. There remain potential statewide class action lawsuits in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

In November, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits claiming that Vioxx caused heart attacks and strokes in some patients.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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