Some Vioxx Patients Denied Right to Sue

Dr. David Cox is a stay-at-home dad, but not by choice. Cox is recovering from a stroke — a condition he blames on Vioxx (search).

"They found a blood clot in one of my arteries of my brain and I subsequently suffered a stroke to my brain stem," said Cox, who now must shade his eyes with dark glasses. "The light sensitivity causes intense migraines."

Cox was taking Vioxx at the time of his stroke, and claims the controversial painkiller — which drugmaker Merck (search) pulled from the market in September due to serious safety concerns — triggered the stroke.

He is not the first Vioxx user to blame Merck for health problems related to the drug; more than 1,500 Vioxx related personal injury lawsuits have been filed against Merck. But Cox's case won't be among them because Michigan law doesn't permit the lawsuit. A 1996 state law prohibits lawsuits against drug makers if the drug in question is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (search).

"The residents of Michigan, unlike the rest of the 49 states, are unable to hold drug companies accountable," said attorney David Mittleman.

Chuck Hadden, a spokesman for the Michigan Manufacturers Association (search), said it makes good business sense to protect pharmaceutical companies whose products are already subjected to extensive federal testing.

"You have to protect those companies so that they can continue to re-invest and find more drugs and help more people," Hadden said. "No other business goes through the same type of regulatory detail that the FDA goes through approving a drug. It is anywhere from an eight to 18 year process."

But for Michigan residents like Cox, the fact that Vioxx was approved by the FDA is little consolation.

"I am lucky: I lived," Cox said. "What about the people who die?"

Meanwhile, it's just not Michigan offering to shield drugmakers from lawsuits. Medical liability reform has been introduced in Congress. A bill in the house would limit a pharmaceutical company's liability for FDA-approved medications — though it doesn't go as far as Michigan's law in banning outright lawsuits.

Click on the video box at the top of this story to see a report by FOX News' Jeff Goldblatt.