Texas court tosses state Vioxx suit against Merck

Bottles of the prescription arthritis and pain medication VIOXX sit on a shelf at a New York City Pharmacy after Merc Research Laboratories announced a worldwide voluntary withdrawal of the drug September 30, 2004. REUTERS/Mike Segar

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Texas court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the state against drugmaker Merck & Co that sought a refund for money spent on the withdrawn Vioxx pain treatment, the company said on Monday.

Judge Scott Jenkins of Travis County, Texas District Court ruled in favor of Merck’s motion for summary judgment in the case filed in 2005 by the Texas Attorney General’s office, Merck said. The suit sought damages and penalties from Merck for alleged violations of the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act.

The case is the first of 12 similar lawsuits filed by state attorneys general to reach a final judgment at the trial court level, Merck said.

Merck voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market in September 2004 after a clinical trial found the blockbuster drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke in long-term users of the medicine.

In November 2007, Merck reached a broad $4.85 billion settlement involving personal injury claims for people who took Vioxx; more than 99 percent of all eligible personal injury claimants enrolled in the program, according to Merck.

In May 2008, Merck agreed to pay $58 million to 29 states and the District of Columbia to resolve Vioxx probes involving state consumer protection laws.

Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf, editing by Dave Zimmerman