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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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