Merck & Co said yesterday that a judicial panel on multidistrict litigation had approved its bid to transfer all pending product liability lawsuits surrounding the company’s withdrawn painkiller, Vioxx (rofecoxib), into one consolidated litigation [[31/01/05a]].

A district court in Louisiana will coordinate all the pre-trial proceedings for the case, which includes all federal cases involving personal injury. Federal district judge, Eldon Fallon will preside over the proceedings, and will now set the schedule for pre-trial matter. The company is still awaiting a decision from the panel with respect to the shareholder lawsuits.

Merck has been named as defendant in around 575 lawsuits, including several plaintiff groups alleging personal injury as a result of using Vioxx [[26/01/05b]]. In addition, 14 shareholder lawsuits have so far been filed, accusing the firm of making false and misleading statements regarding Vioxx, and further suits are expected to follow. The firm, which reiterated that it intends to vigorously defend itself, and claims that it “acted responsibly every step of the way – from researching the drug prior to approval – to monitoring the drug while it was on the market and – to voluntarily withdrawing the drug when it did”, has established a reserve of some $675 million solely for its future legal defense costs related to the Vioxx suits and governmental probes [[09/11/04a]]. However, it has not established any reserves for any liability resulting from the litigation.