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Merck Australia’s Win in Vioxx Ruling Is Upheld by Court

Merck & Co. isn’t liable in Australia for heart risks associated with the Vioxx painkiller, the country’s top court ruled, upholding an appeal of the first trial decision outside the U.S.

Graeme Robert Peterson was awarded A$287,912 ($290,000) in a 2010 ruling that found Vioxx contributed to his heart attack in 2003, and a Federal Court appeal panel in Melbourne reversed that decision in October 2011. The High Court of Australia today rejected a request to hear an appeal, Slater & Gordon Ltd., a class-action law firm, said in a statement.

Merck withdrew Vioxx in 2004 after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The drugmaker, which faced thousands of claims from users blaming the medicine for those medical conditions, won 11 of 16 Vioxx U.S. suits at trial before agreeing in 2007 to create a $4.85 billion settlement fund. The fund didn’t apply to cases outside the U.S.

Ronald Rogers, a spokesman for Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail sent outside regular business hours in the U.S.

Slater & Gordon said it has spent about A$10 million to fund the Vioxx class-action litigation in Australia since it started in 2005. The amount will be written down in the current year’s financial accounts and won’t have a cash impact as the costs have been accounted for, the law firm said.

The case is Graeme Robert Peterson v Merck Sharpe & Dohme (Australia) Pty Ltd. and Merck & Co, Inc., VID 570/2010, Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia (Melbourne).

Joe Schneider in Sydney at +61-2-9777-8680 or

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