Mary Trebilcock of Caseyville may be the first local litigant to join the band wagon suing Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. over its anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin.

Days after a study was released casting doubt on the drug's benefits, Trebilcock, represented by attorneys J. Michael Weilmuenster and Christopher Cueto of Belleville, and John Driscoll of St. Louis, filed a consumer fraud class action lawsuit in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Plaintiffs' firms from across the country have taken aim at the drug makers in the wake of a company study, "Enhance," completed in 2006, and released Jan. 14. Vytorin television advertising was pulled Jan. 22.

According to Trebilcock's complaint filed Jan. 18, the proposed class is not seeking damages for personal, psychological or emotional injuries.

"This is a class action for money damages arising from the purchase price paid by the Plaintiff and the Class for the drug Vytorin," the complaint states.

"(Defendants) knew that the prices which it charged for Vytorin were far in excess of the fair market value Vytorin would have had but for (Defendants) omissions, suppressions, and/or concealments."

In 2004 Schering-Plough entered into a joint marketing agreement to develop, market and sell a combination drug comprised of Zocor and Zetia to be called Vytorin.

Zocor, made by Merck, is used block the production of cholesterol in the body. Zetia, made by Schering-Plough, is used to inhibit intestinal absorption of cholesterol.

The Enhance study reportedly shows that Vytorin is no more effective than Zocor at reducing plaque build up.

Trebilcock's complaint takes shots at the drug makers for trying to obtain a new patent on old drugs, "an attempt to postpone the inevitable: generic competition resulting in the loss of sales."

"Drug makers are also combining drugs whose patents are set to expire with other drugs to create entirely new products and new patents," the complaint states. "While these patent-extension tricks are no substitute for new products worth billions, they certainly help to cushion the blow of the sales vacuum created by patent expirations.

"The drug companies' methods of extending patents and creating partnerships are like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."

According to a report today in the National Law Journal, "Cases are being filed faster than any of the lawyers can track."

Attorney David Krangle of Great Neck, N.Y., has joined forces with lawyers in San Francisco, Louisiana, Houston and New York to pursue Vytorin class actions, the report stated.

"We like to team up to get everyone's resources to handle the case more effectively," Krangle told the National Law Journal. "We moved quickly because there are certain advantages to getting started early. When the class counsel is appointed, one of the things a judge will look at is who filed the case first, so that's why cases are filed quickly."

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