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No wonder the Merck rats want a golden parachute…

Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi acts as the NY state pension fund’s trustee. He’s pissed — “These actions have put lives at risk and cost shareholders billions of dollars.” (Ruth Fremson/NYT)

Of course, this is probably going to be cited by Bush as a reason to ban/control lawsuits against Big Pharma, even when they are caught red-handed trying to screw the public with a bad drug for profit. Pension Fund of New York Files Suit Against Merck (NYT):

The main pension fund of New York State filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against Merck & Company, accusing it of misleading shareholders about the safety of its arthritis pain drug Vioxx, which has since been withdrawn.

The suit, brought in United States District Court in Trenton, said that the pension fund lost about $171 million on Sept. 30, when the company, citing increased heart risks in tests of people who had used Vioxx for more than 18 months, withdrew it from the market. On that day, the price of a share of Merck stock plummeted 27 percent, and it has since drifted lower. Merck shares are down almost 40 percent so far this year, though they closed up 35 cents yesterday, at $28.02.

The suit appears to be the first by a pension fund against Merck, which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J. A company spokeswoman, Joan Wainwright, said that about 15 lawsuits had been filed, contending that Merck misled shareholders. Several hundred personal injury lawsuits have also been filed against Merck by people claiming to have been injured by Vioxx.

…The New York State Common Retirement Fund, as the pension fund is formally known, is the second-largest public pension fund in the country, after Calpers.

It has some $120.8 billion in assets and more than 970,000 retirees, beneficiaries and members.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding