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Merck & Co., Inc., et al. v. Reynolds, et al.

United States Supreme Court
130 S.Ct. 1784 (2010)


Facts

Merck & Co., Inc. (Merck) (defendant) developed and marketed Vioxx, a pain-killing drug. In March 2000, Merck announced the results of a study called VIGOR, which showed that four times as many participants who took Vioxx suffered heart attacks compared to those who took naproxen, a similar pain killer. Merck explained these results by presenting the naproxen hypothesis, which attributed the lower incidence of heart attacks associated with naproxen to a benefit naproxen conferred, rather than to any harm caused by Vioxx. In September 2001, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public warning letter to Merck, stating that while the naproxen hypothesis was a possible explanation, Merck had failed to adequately acknowledge the alternative possibility that Vioxx caused heart attacks. In September and October of 2001, several products liability suits were filed against Merck, alleging that Merck had downplayed the harmful effects of Vioxx. On November 6, 2003, a group of investors (plaintiffs) brought this suit, alleging that Merck fraudulently set forth the naproxen hypothesis while knowing it was false. Merck moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the two-year statute of limitations had expired because the plaintiffs should have known facts constituting the violation more than two years before the date of filing. The District Court agreed and dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed. This Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

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