Monthly Archives: February 2010

Merck Settles Some of Its Shareholder Lawsuits Concering Vioxx

Merck & Co. has agreed to pay $12.15 million in order to settle some shareholder lawsuits concerning its drug Vioxx. The settlement would resolve derivative claims that alleged current and former Merck officials mishandled the drug Vioxx. Merck removed Vioxx from the market in 2004 after a study revealed that Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke.
According to the Wall St. Journal, “Since the Vioxx controversy erupted, about 27,000 personal-injury lawsuits have been filed, the company says. Merck has been challenging all of the cases and settled many of them. Most notably, it agreed to a pay $4.85 billion to settle personal-injury claims of more than 40,000 people. In another settlement, the company will pay $80 million to resolve 190 claims filed by drug-benefit plans seeking to recover costs of paying for Vioxx use.”

Boston Scientific Defibrillators’ Design Flaws

Boston Scientific’s Cognis and Teligen defibrillators have a design flaw that may cause the defibrillator to send unnecessary, powerful and painful electric shocks to the heart, according to researchers. The Wall St. Journal is reporting this morning that the defibrillator design defect may affect some 90,000 patients. According to the Journal, “Boston Scientific had warned in December that there was a problem with shocks with the defibrillators—the third of various types the company has disclosed with its Cognis and Teligen devices. But it said the problem was limited to the few patients who had the devices implanted deeper in their bodies, under their chest muscles.”
Reports of the defibrillator design defect was first noted in the journal HeartRhythm. Boston Scientific officials were quick to criticize the authors of the HeartRhythm article saying the article lacked a “detailed engineering analysis”. As if in response to the medical device company’s criticism of the authors the Journal points to their qualifications and their role in the medical device industry.
The HeartRhythm article was co-written by William Maisel, an authority on medical device safety and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Another author, Joseph Germano at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., said he has been paid to speak on behalf of leading medical device makers including Boston Scientific.
“Clearly their device had a problem, and their testing was not able to reproduce it,” said Dr. Maisel, who has advised the Food and Drug Administration about medical device quality.

Questions Linger About Toyota Recalls

First, it was the floor mats that caused Toyota to recall 4.2 million vehicles. That recall occurred in September 2009 and Toyota officials blamed the poorly designed floor mats for causing the accelerator to become stuck in the depressed position. Then, on January 21, 2010, Toyota recalled 2.3 million vehicles for the same issue. However, this time Toyota officials blamed it on a mechanical issue that was causing the accelerator to “stick” in a depressed position. This past Tuesday, Toyota issued another recall. This time the popular Prius Hybrid and Lexus HS250h were recalled due to brake problems.
Today, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that former Toyota lawyer Dimitrios Billos has internal Toyota documents that show Toyota withheld safety defect information in Toyota lawsuits that allege the defects caused serious injury and death. An arbitrator has ordered Billos not to release any of the documents in his possession. The ruling is temporary until the arbitrator, former federal judge Gary Taylor rules on the merits of the case.
According to the LA Times, “The ruling was issued in a case Biller filed against Toyota under federal racketeering laws, alleging that it engaged in fraud, obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence.
Toyota had sued Biller in 2008, asserting that he had confidential corporate documents.
Biller is a former staff attorney for Toyota’s Torrance-based U.S. sales division. He once defended the automaker in lawsuits alleging that defects led to rollovers that caused injury and death.”

New Toyota Recall Will Include Prius

There’s breaking news that Toyota officials plan to recall 300,000 Prius hybrids due to brake defects and mechanical failures. Kyodo news agency is reporting that the recall involves those Prius hybrids that went on sale from May of last year until last month. There have been 100 or so complaints from US customers that the Prius brakes appear to fail when driving on bumpy roads.
This latest recall news comes at a tough time for the Japanese auto maker. The NY Times published an article yesterday highlighting the manufacturing defects in Toyota vehicles as well as the company’s tardy response to safety issues. For instance, the sticky pedal issue has been known since December 2008 when it first surfaced in Europe. Toyota officials were slow to respond and/or warn consumers about certain manufacturing defects and safety problems with their vehicles.

Another Abuse Case

“Defendant first started giving Victim what he viewed as a ‘regular’ back rub so he could fall asleep easier. However, the defendant then started touching his stomach, thighs, legs, and eventually worked up to the point of” [SEX ASSAULT].
“Defendant would then take Victim out places like Taco Bell which made Victim feel good as he did not have a dad. . .It should be noted that the Catholic Church has done nothing to assist this department in this investigation.”
These are the damning words written by a probation officer and the arresting officer of a priest who’s been accused of sexually abusing young boys in California. How many times have we heard similar stories from victims about the grooming process whereby a priest would entice a young, unsuspecting victim before sexually molesting him? How many times have we heard about the lack of cooperation of the Catholic Church or other institutions that have covered up abuse or denied it altogether?

Toyota Recall Prompts Apology

Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda has apologized for the massive Toyota recall as well as the problems with its popular Prius hybrid. The recalls concern accelerator pedals that stick as well as floor mats that are improperly designed. The Prius has suffered from reports of brake malfunctions but has not been recalled.
Today’s NY Times features an article about another potential headache for the foreign car manufacturer. According to the story, a 77-year-old former autoworker was killed instantly in 2008 when her 2005 Toyota Camry accelerated out of control, jumped a curb and hit a tree. Toyota officials are now focusing their investigation on the electronic system that controls the throttle and engine speed.
None of this is good news for the once reliable auto company. In some of these cases, Toyota lawsuits have been filed. It is not yet known how many people have been injured as a result of these mechanical defects.

Transportation Secretary Advises Not to Drive Recalled Toyotas

Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood announced this morning that drivers whose Toyota vehicles have been recalled because of accelerator pedals that stick, should stop driving the vehicles and have them repaired at their local dealership. In a somewhat surprise announcement the Obama cabinet official weighed into the Toyota issue after the car company announced problems with brakes on some of the Prius models as well.
The sticking pedal recall affects some 2.3 million Toyota vehicles. Lahood’s warning came as the cabinet secretary gave testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation.
Toyota has also been hit with over 100 complaints about faulty brakes in its popular Prius hybrid. US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received the Prius complaints, two of which involved injuries related to the brake problem.
Secretary LaHood has expressed criticism over Toyota’s lack of response to safety concerns as well as quality control issues. “They should have taken it seriously from the very beginning when we first started discussing it with them,” he said. “Maybe they were a little safety deaf.”
Lahood mentioned that the US is considering civil penalties for Toyota’s lack of due diligence regarding the safety concerns.

Reglan Tied to Serious Movement Disorder

Reglan is a drug approved by the FDA to treat short-term gastrointestinal disorders. I emphasize short-term because long-term use of Reglan has now been linked to a serious, permanent movement disorder known as tardive dyskinesia. Tardive dyskinesia is a permanent disorder that causes involuntary and repetitive muscle movements. There is no known cure. The approved length of time a patient should use Reglan is no more than 90 days. Chances of contracting tardive dyskinesia dramatically increase the longer a patient uses the drug past the 90 day window. The disorder is characterized by:
Tardive dyskinesia is characterized by:
• Involuntary/ repetitive movements of the extremities
• Facial tics
• Lip smacking, pursing and puckering
• Face Grimacing
• Tongue protrusion
• Rapid eye movements or blinking
• Impaired movement of the fingers.
• Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Reglan lawsuits allege that Wyeth, the manufacturer of Reglan, encouraged doctors to prescribe the drug for longer than the approved period. These cases are another instance in which a drug’s marketing campaign leads to serious consumer injuries.