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Supreme court to review Vioxx ruling

The US Supreme Court has agreed to consider Merck & Co's appeal of a lower court ruling that reinstated a proposed shareholder lawsuit over Vioxx

The US Supreme Court has agreed to consider Merck & Co's appeal of a lower court ruling that reinstated a proposed shareholder lawsuit over Vioxx (rofecoxib).

The securities lawsuit, filed in November 2003, alleged that the drugmaker misrepresented the safety of its painkiller Vioxx, which was removed from the market in 2004 because of links to heart attacks and strokes.

A federal district court initially ruled in Merck's favour when it found that investors had missed a two-year window to sue the company noting that indications of alleged fraud were public by October 2001. However, the appeals court overturned the decision in 2008.

Merck continues to argue that investors waited too long to file the suit and wants the plaintiffs' claims dismissed.

Kent Jarrell, a company spokesperson said: "Merck properly informed the FDA and the scientific community about scientific data as it emerged."

The Supreme Court will hear both arguments during its upcoming term that begins in October. Its decision may mean tighter deadlines for investor fraud lawsuits.

The appeal is unrelated to the $4.85bn settlement between Merck and plaintiffs who filed personal injury lawsuits against the company over Vioxx.

27th May 2009

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