ILNews

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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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