The suit the ruling stems from was filed by users of Vioxx who allege that they have suffered no immediate symptoms, but have an increased risk of developing illness due to the use of the drug. They wished to have diagnostic testing done in order to uncover any problems that may be hidden or in development.
The court ruled that because they are claiming no personal injury, they are not eligible for the settlement announced by Merck in November in which the drug company agreed to a payment of $4.85 billion in order to settle thousands of personal injury suits filed in the U.S. involving a heart attack, stroke, or death. As of March 31, some 45,000 eligible claimants initiated enrollment.
According to the high court, because the Vioxx users in the case are claiming no personal injury, they “cannot satisfy the definition of harm” in order to seek medical monitoring under the Product Liability Act of New Jersey.
In September of 2004, Vioxx was pulled from the market by Merck after an internal study discovered that it doubles the risk of heart attack or stroke.