In a case which in some respects seemed more like a John Grisham novel than a serious piece of Australian litigation, as well publicised, on 5 March 2010 Justice Jessup of the Federal Court found in favour of Graham Peterson (and in relevant respects, in favour of the other members of his representative class) in his case against Merck Sharpe and Dohme, the Australian manufacturer of the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx.
Mr Peterson had suffered from back pain for many years prior to being prescribed Vioxx by his GP, Dr Dickman in May 2001. He found, as did many other patients, that Vioxx provided relief from his pain without the adverse gastro-intestinal side effects which were encountered with other drugs providing similar pain relief.
In December 2003 whilst still continuing to regularly take Vioxx, Mr Peterson suffered a serious heart attack for which he received prompt and effective medical treatment leading to his making an uncomplicated medical recovery. At the time this heart attack occurred neither he nor his GP or the cardiac team considered that his heart attack was related to his consumption of Vioxx. This all changed following the withdrawal of Vioxx from the market in September 2004 and subsequent revelations as to its potential side-effect.
Interestingly, the basis upon which Justice Jessup found in favour of Mr Peterson was in many ways the least contentious.