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Brenda Fulmer
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Merck Announces Landmark Settlement of Vioxx Claims

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Putting an end of rumors that have been circulating for the past several weeks, Merck announced on November 9, 2007, that it had reached a proposed settlement agreement valued at $4.85 billion to resolve the Vioxx litigation that has plagued the company for years. As early 2000, reports began to emerge implicating Vioxx as the cause of heart attacks and strokes. After these first reports, Merck engaged in an aggressive effort to quiet these concerns in the medical community by relying on faulty data and laughable explanations for adverse study results. Prior to 2004, 1,000 lawsuits had been filed against Merck in New Jersey and other state court actions. After withdrawal of the drug from the market on September 30, 2004, the number of lawsuits and potential claims has risen exponentially. Currently, there are more than 27,000 lawsuits involving 45,000 plaintiffs pending against Merck and thousands of additional claimants who have signed tolling agreements for their claims. Merck reported to the financial markets that it had spent nearly $1.2 billion in legal fees to defend Vioxx lawsuits through September 30, 2007, and was facing the prospect of multiple multi-plaintiff trials in early 2008. This proposed settlement is reportedly intended to compensate plaintiffs who suffered heart attacks or strokes substantiated by medical records and who have proof of receipt of at least 30 Vioxx pills and ingestion of Vioxx within 2 weeks of their heart attack or stroke. The written settlement agreement and details of the claims process have not yet been released. It has been reported that the settlement would be funded after March 1, 2008, provided the 85% enrollment requirements for various categories of claims are met.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Drugs, Medical Devices and Implants.