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Trial Lawyers Try to Open Up Michigan for Vioxx Suits

An editorial in the Detroit Metro Times (billed as "Detroit's weekly alternative") advertises a proposed change in Michigan's law prohibiting suits against drug manufacturers over drugs that have been approved by the FDA.

Michigan has one of the strictest laws in the country, prohibiting most product liability suits against a drug manufacturers if the drug at issue was approved by the FDA. See MCL 600.2946(5).

The spate of recent Vioxx suits, however, left the Michigan trial lawyers panting for a piece of the action.

Michigan House Bill 4773 would rescind Michigan's blanket immunity for drug manufacturers, replacing that immunity with a "rebuttable presumption" that a drug approved by the FDA was safe.

The editorial, however, injects an unintentional bit of irony when it describes the bill as a necessary step to allow Michigan residents to sue over drugs like Vioxx, "which was found to have caused heart damage."

It is hyperbole like this that prompted Michigan to adopt its blanket immunity law in the first place.

I have no idea whether Vioxx is a safe drug or not. I do know, however, that it was Merck's own testing that uncovered the potential problem with the drug and that Merck voluntarily withdrew the drug from the market, even whent he FDA had cleared it to continue sales.

The scientific question of whether Vioxx "causes" any adverse effects seems to continue to be in dispute.

As recently as May 5, 2005, Merck's Vice President of Global Strategic Regulatory Development, Dennis Erb, testified before the House Committee on Government Reform that, "while Vioxx was on the market, the combined analysis of our controlled clinical trials demonstrated no increased risk of cardiovascular thrombotic events for pateitnts taking Vioxx compared to patients taking pacebo or NSAIDs other than naproxen."



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.