“Down Under”; Not Done — Vioxx® Class Action Not (Yet) Settled: Federal (Australian) Judge

Just exactly one month ago, I mentioned that I thought the Australian class action settlement of the Vioxx® claims, filed there — was in danger of not being approved by the able judge overseeing the case.

This morning, Sydney time (Thursday EDT US), the judge formally rejected the aggregated $504,000 settlement — for all 1,700 potential claimants — saying it did not adequately take into account how individual circumstances might change payouts. [A sincere hat tip here, to that gent Ed Silverman, over at Pharmalot, for alerting me to this.]

Here’s the operative bit, from the online Sydney Morning Herald “Business Day” section — but do go read it all:

. . . .The parties last month reached a $540,000 settlement, subject to Federal Court approval, which would have resulted in the proceedings being dismissed and the matter finalised, meaning no future claims could be brought against Merck over the drug.

Justice Christopher Jessup on Friday refused to approve the settlement. He said the agreement did not take into account individual circumstances and may not be fair to those who had a stronger case against the drug company. . . . “I don’t just consider myself to be a street sweeper,” he said.

“I want to know what’s really lying around and whether people’s interests or rights are being affected. . . .”

We will keep you posted.

However, this likely means Merck, or MSD Australia, more precisely, will have to both put more money on the table — and set up a matrix which awards multiplier amounts (or reduction factors), depending on various medical conditions/events, in individual claimants’ cases. That matrix will take time to negotiate, and new notices will need to be prepared and sent out. After all this, the same judge will be asked to approve (or diapprove) the renegotiated settlement terms.

And so — Vioxx is not going to be entirely in Whitehouse Station’s rear view mirror in 2013, after all — it would seem.

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