In April 2007, Federal Judge Stanley Chesler dismissed an investor lawsuit seeking class-action status against Merck, but an appeals panel from the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling on Tuesday. Plaintiffs filed the original lawsuit in November 2003.
Judge Chesler originally said the statute of limitations was up, but the appeals panel disagreed.
Plaintiffs claim Merck was not straightforward about the risks of Vioxx. The plaintiff investors took a $30-billion dollar hit in 2004 when Merck withdrew Vioxx following news that the drug doubled the risk of heart attack or stroke. The securities lawsuit is distinct from personal injury lawsuits against Merck, which began paying claimants last month.
According to Merck, the statute-of-limitations rationale is not the only rationale for blocking the suit. For example, Merck says there were no strong data linking Vioxx to heart attacks or strokes at the time. The company will seek reversal based on alternative grounds if necessary.