The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider whether an appeals court appropriately reinstated a shareholder lawsuit against Merck alleging the company misled investors about the safety of the pain-relief drug Vioxx.
Several class-action lawsuits eventually consolidated as one case allege that Merck committed securities fraud by diminishing the importance of data indicating patients taking Vioxx suffered heightened risk of heart attacks. A U.S. District Court judge in Newark, N.J., dismissed the complaint, agreeing with Mercks argument that more than two yearsthe limit under the Securities Exchange Actpassed between initial reports of the problems with Vioxx and when the first lawsuit was filed in November 2003.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, concluded in September 2008 that market analysts, scientists and the news media at the time continued to treat as plausible Mercks public position that it was unclear whether the data indicated Vioxx caused additional heart attacks or that the drug that Vioxx was compared with in the study, naproxen, inhibited heart attacks.