KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Judge Rules For Merck In State Vioxx Lawsuit Over Medicaid Payments

A federal judge ruled in favor of Merck & Co. Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by Louisiana trying to recoup what it paid when Medicaid patients used the company's withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, The Associated Press reports. James R. Dugan II, "the lead attorney representing Louisiana, said his team would be meeting with state officials later this week to discuss appellate possibilities. … Dugan's team had argued Louisiana would have restricted sales of Vioxx, a former blockbuster drug with peak annual sales of about $2.5 billion, through the state's Medicaid program if officials had known more about the drug's risks of heart attack and stroke. Lawyers for the state also had argued that Merck exaggerated how safe Vioxx was, compared with other anti-inflammatory drugs, in reducing the chances of potentially fatal stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding." The judge however, noted that the drug was required to carry a warning about cardiovascular risks, like others in its class, and that health officials in the state never restricted payments for those other drugs.

"In the only other such case in which a court has ruled, a case filed by the Texas attorney general, Merck won a summary judgment from a state judge, said Tarek Ismail, outside counsel for Merck" (Johnson, 6/30).

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