The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of drug maker Merck & Co. in a dispute over millions of state Medicaid dollars spent on an arthritis drug that was pulled from the market.
Michigan Supreme Court rules for Merck in Medicaid case
In a 4-3 decision released Saturday, the court declined to hear an appeal from the attorney general's office, which wants to recover at least $20 million spent on behalf of Medicaid recipients who used Vioxx. The appeals court in March said Michigan can't sue because a state law grants immunity to companies if a drug has been approved by federal regulators. It's the only law of its kind in the country.
The Supreme Court's three Democratic justices wanted to take an appeal but the Republican majority prevailed. In a dissent, Justice Marilyn Kelly said Michigan's product-liability law doesn't fit the case. The state is "attempting to recover money spent for a product that allegedly did not live up to defendant's representations. This case is not a product liability action because no physical injury is claimed," Kelly wrote.
Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., withdrew Vioxx from the market in 2004 after its own research showed the once-blockbuster drug doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. The company paid $4.85 billion to settle most of the roughly 50,000 lawsuits alleging Vioxx harmed or killed users.
Justices Diane Hathaway and Michael Cavanagh also were in favor of accepting an appeal, though Kelly was the only justice to elaborate in a written statement. The majority said "we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this court," common language when a case is rejected.
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