Vioxx Reversal Illustrates the Danger of Federal Preemption

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Vioxx Reversal Illustrates the Danger of Federal Preemption 

For Immediate Release: May 29, 2008

Contact: Amaya Smith
202.965.3500, ext. 8369

Washington, DC—Today's ruling overturning a jury’s verdict against Merck & Co., the makers of withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, shows how harmful federal preemption is to victims who are harmed by negligent drug companies.

Vioxx was withdrawn from the market after a study showed the drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Merck ignored persistent warnings from its own researchers that Vioxx presented unnecessary dangers to its users yet delayed placing a warning label on the drug because executives calculated the wait would earn the company an extra $229 million. In testimony before the U.S. Congress, an FDA official said that Vioxx was responsible for as many as 55,000 deaths.

"The New Jersey decision underscores the danger of federal preemption – created by unelected regulators without the authority of Congress -- which allows corporations to receive complete immunity and escape accountability even when they knowingly injure and endanger consumers with unsafe products," said American Association for Justice President, Kathleen Flynn Peterson. "Federal preemption allowed the court to ignore the verdict of a jury which heard all the evidence first hand."

"Complete immunity means even less incentive for corporations to ensure the safety of their products, because they know they only need to meet minimum federal safety requirements."

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