Vioxx securities-fraud case moves ahead

Investors will have their chance to fight Merck on Vioxx. A U.S. judge ruled that the drugmaker must face claims that it soft-pedaled the safety risks of its now-withdrawn painkiller, violating securities laws in the process, Bloomberg reports. It's just the latest tangle over Vioxx, of course, as Merck closes in on $7.7 billion in potential legal costs.

Merck calls the shareholder suit "without merit" and says it will "defend itself vigorously against these claims." U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler, however, figured that the allegations carried enough weight to move forward in court. Investors made an adequate case that Merck misrepresented Vioxx safety, Chesler said, and they can also pursue claims that the company misled the market about the Vigor study, which flagged potential heart attack risks.

At the time, Merck suggested that the difference in heart attack rates among patients using Vioxx and those using naproxen could be explained by the latter drug's protective effect on the heart. Judge Chesler ruled that the investors "plausibly suggest that Merck had no reasonable basis for its public characterization of the Vigor results as ‘likely' due to naproxen's cardioprotective quality," Bloomberg reports.

- read the Bloomberg story