Australian court tosses Vioxx ruling against Merck

An Australian appeals court has negated a Vioxx-related ruling against Merck's domestic unit. The decision overturns last year's award of about $280,000 in damages to Vioxx patient Graeme Peterson, who claimed that the now-recalled painkiller caused his 2003 heart attack. It was the first trial decision outside the U.S. on claims that Merck failed to warn of Vioxx's potential cardiovascular risks, Bloomberg notes.

"The company is satisfied with this outcome and is in the process of reviewing the full judgment," Merck ($MRK) told Bloomberg in a statement. "The Full Court held that Vioxx was not proven to be the cause" of Peterson's heart attack. The company agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle U.S. lawsuits filed by Vioxx patients.

The appeals court's ruling doesn't affect other Australian patients who claim Vioxx-related injuries, Peterson's lawyers said in a statement. Those class members can pursue their cases against Merck, the law firm Slater & Gordon said. "Mr. Peterson also has the right to seek special leave to appeal today's judgment to the High Court of Australia. The parties may also decide to work towards a negotiated settlement," the statement said (as quoted by Reuters).

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