Supreme Court signals support for Merck in major case

Jan 08, 2019

Merck & Co. could be close to winning a Supreme Court case that could set an important precedent for future product liability claims. 

According to Reuters, a majority of justices on the Supreme Court appeared sympathetic to Merck’s defense against hundreds of lawsuits brought by patients claiming the company failed to adequately warn them about bone fracture risks associated with the osteoporosis medication Fosamax.

Merck argued that in 2008 it submitted data to the FDA showing that the drug could be linked to bone fractures, but said the agency decided not to mandate a warning label at that time. After further study of the issue, the agency did an about-face in 2010 and asked manufacturers, including Merck, to include the warning.

While several liberal judges on the court said that originally, the FDA only rejected Merck’s language and that the company put too much responsibility on the FDA to decide what kind of label the drug needed, conservative judges (who hold a 5-4 majority) countered that over-warning patients could do more harm than good.  

The Supreme Court will hear arguments from about 500 Fosamax users this week from 45 states, and ultimately decide if they have the right to sue Merck for fractures they experienced while using the drug.

Read the full Reuters report.

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