A New Jersey appeals court has revived a lawsuit that sought to force drugmaker Merck & Co. Inc. to fund a medical monitoring program for patients who took the painkiller Vioxx. The state appellate court ruled on Tuesday that N.J. Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee's decision to dismiss the lawsuit was premature and failed to give the plaintiffs the opportunity to prove legally accepted claims.
The appeals court said in a 26-page opinion that it was not expressing an opinion on the ultimate viability of the lawsuit. Plaintiffs in the case sought a court-administered medical screening program, funded by Merck (Charts), that would provide medical and diagnostic tests for each member of the class to detect potential heart problems arising from exposure to Vioxx.
"There is no medical science supporting the plaintiffs' position that they need to be monitored for cardiovascular conditions two years after Vioxx was voluntarily taken off the market," Merck attorney Ted Mayer said in an e-mailed statement.