UK firms line up for Vioxx litigation

A host of UK law firms are preparing to fight pharmaceutical giant Merck over its controversial painkiller Vioxx, following Friday’s (19 August) US ruling against the company.

Several firms, including Alexander Harris, Freethcartwright, Hugh James and Liverpool firm MSB Solicitors, are taking cases to the US on behalf of patients and families who have suffered cardiovascular diseases as a result of taking the drug.

Meanwhile a consortium of firms – Irwin Mitchell, Leigh Day & Co, and Liverpool’s Goodmans – are gearing up to bring a claim in England under the UK’s Consumer Protection Act.

A partner close to the claimant group said the firms’ view was that the Consumer Protection Act would be the “fastest and fairest route” for UK claimants.

But the firms taking cases to the US believe that the claimants have a strong argument for compensation, following the Texas ruling last week on behalf of widow Carol Ernst whose husband died of a heart problem after taking Vioxx. Merck is appealing the judgment.

In the UK, Lovells product liability head John Meltzer is acting for Merck. Irwin Mitchell, Leigh Day and Goodmans have instructed Cloisters Chambers’ Brian Langstaff QC and Doughty Street Chambers’ Robin Oppenheim.