New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
Law Firm Website Design Companies : The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Merck: More lawsuits, Justice probe over Vytorin

  Biotech  -   POSTED: 2008/11/06 17:19

Lawsuits against Merck & Co. and partner Schering-Plough Corp. related to their marketing of cholesterol drug Vytorin are piling up, and the U.S. Department of Justice has begun investigating the drugmakers' conduct, according to a regulatory filing.

The Justice Department's Civil Division notified Merck in a Sept. 10 letter that the department is investigating whether the drugmakers' promotion of Vytorin resulted in false claims to federal health care programs, Merck noted in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission late Monday. If so, federal health programs could seek to recover money they have spent on the drug.

A group of 35 state attorneys general are jointly investigating whether the partners violated state consumer protection laws in their marketing of Vytorin, Merck reported.

And, since January, Merck has been served with or become aware of about 140 civil class-action lawsuits alleging consumer fraud claims in connection with two cholesterol drugs sold and promoted by the partners' joint venture. Some lawsuits allege personal injuries or seek medical monitoring for people who used the drugs, the filing said.

"We take this matter very seriously," Skip Irvine, a spokesman for the joint venture, said Tuesday. "We're cooperating with the request for information that the Justice Department is seeking."

Merck also said in the SEC filing that it is cooperating with the other investigators.

Vytorin and one of its components, Zetia, have been blockbusters in the lucrative cholesterol market, with a combined $5.2 billion in 2007 revenue. But repeated bad news about the drugs this year has cut revenue by about 15 percent since last fall — they brought in only a combined $1.1 billion in the third quarter — contributing to new rounds of layoffs at both Merck and Schering-Plough.

In January, under pressure from congressional investigators, the companies released results of a long-delayed study showing that pricey Vytorin was no better at reducing plaque buildup than its second component, a generic cholesterol drug called Zocor costing about one-third as much.

That led to the investigations by congressional committees as to whether the companies deliberately delayed releasing the study's results to boost sales of Vytorin and Zetia, a charge the companies have denied.

The investigations are being conducted by the Senate Finance Committee and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. They have sought witness interviews, documents and information related to the companies' promotion of Vytorin, the delayed release of results on the patient study, called ENHANCE, and stock sales by officers of the companies.

The Oversight and Investigations subcommittee also made requests on Aug. 21 and Sept. 2 for documents and information related to another patient study, called SEAS, that linked Vytorin to a possible increased risk of various cancers and showed it didn't prevent deterioration, surgery or death in patients with diseased heart valves, as the companies had hoped.

"In a normal environment, this would not be a big deal," analyst Steve Brozak of WBB Securities said of the Justice Department investigation. But pharmaceutical companies are getting lots of scrutiny these days, he said, and all the new litigation could distract the companies from their core business.

"It doesn't mean anything today, but it can have a compounding effect that could mean something tomorrow," he said.

Brozak said all the lawsuits by the class-action attorneys and state attorneys general are "a standard piling-on," but the class-action lawyers are familiar with Merck's successful defense strategy from litigation over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx and are not likely to "make the same mistakes as they did with Vioxx," he said.

Merck shares closed up almost 4 percent at $31.13, and Schering-Plough shares finished the day up almost 7 percent at $15.50 on a generally positive day on Wall Street.

Legal News | Breaking News | Terms & Conditions | Privacy

ⓒ Breaking Legal News. All Rights Reserved.

The content contained on the web site has been prepared by BLN as a service to the internet community and is not intended to constitute legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case. Small Law Firm Web Design by Law Promo Website Design
   More Legal News
   Legal Spotlight
   Exclusive Commentaries
   Attorney & Blog - Blog Watch
   Law Firm News  1  2  3  4  5  6 
   Lawyer & Law Firm Links
San Francisco Trademark Lawyer
San Francisco Copyright Lawyer
Gurnee IL bankruptcy attorneys
Credit card debt lawyer
Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Indianapolis Medical Malpractice
San Diego Investor Disputes Attorney
Class action and individual actions
Surry County Criminal Defense Lawyers
Yadkin County Family Law Attorneys
Oregon DUI Law Attorney
Eugene DUI Lawyer. Criminal Defense Law
New York Adoption Lawyers
New York Foster Care Lawyers
Adoption Pre-Certification
Chicago, DuPage IL Workers' Compensation Lawyers
Chicago Workplace Injury Attorneys
St. Louis Missouri Criminal Defense Lawyer
St. Charles DUI Attorney
Santa Ana Workers' Compensation Lawyers
Eugene Bankruptcy Attorney
Bankruptcy Attorney Eugene
Lorain Elyria Divorce Lawyer
Connecticut Special Education Lawyer
   More Legal News  1  2  3  4  5  6
   Legal News Links
  Click The Law
  Daily Bar News
  The Legal Voice
  The Legal Report
  Legal News Post
  Crisis Legal News
  Legal News Journal
  Attorney Web Design
  Bar Association Website Design
  Law Firm Directory