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Indiana governor subpoenaed in Vioxx litigation

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will testify this fall in the ongoing federal court litigation involving recalled painkiller Vioxx, which is being blamed for thousands of heart attacks nationwide.

Documents in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana's online filing system show that subpoenas went out Tuesday, and Daniels will give a taped deposition in Indianapolis Sept. 11. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is scheduled to do the same Sept. 4 in his home state.

Both governors have ties to the drug industry - Daniels worked as president of Eli Lilly's North American Pharmaceutical Operations for eight years until 2001 - and are being subpoenaed to testify about consultations with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before the agency set new drug-label rules last year defining what must be printed on the prescription labels.

The FDA contends those rules pre-empt state law and therefore claims that a company's warnings were inadequate under state law would be invalid. "Failure to warn" is a state claim, but where there is no parallel federal law, federal courts apply state laws in the jurisdiction where a suit is filed, according to federal court documents.

Thousands of Vioxx cases are on the Multi-District Litigation docket before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

A July 3 order from Judge Fallon describes the FDA's stand as "entirely unpersuasive" and allows the litigation to proceed. A monthly pretrial conference is set for 9:30 a.m. Friday in the federal court, and the judge will consider Merck's request to appeal that decision immediately rather than waiting on final rulings in two cases involving that issue.

Vioxx - which had peak sales of $ 2.5 billion annually - was on the market from May 1999 through September 2004, when Merck voluntarily withdrew it in the wake of a clinical study showing increased risk of heart attack and stroke after 18 months of use. This revelation followed other evidence that had undermined Merck's justification for charging premium prices for Vioxx compared to similar prescription painkiller drugs. More than 14,000 cases exist, involving an estimated 20,000 plaintiff groups, and hundreds of attorneys and judges across the country. Court records show about 15 Hoosier attorneys have had their hands in this litigation.

Some suits ask Merck to pay an insurance company or health care provider's expenses for purchasing the drug. But most are rooted in claims that label warnings about possible cardiovascular effects were inadequate.
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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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