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Merck to pay $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement

November 12, 2007
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The Assoicated Press reports that Merck & Co. will pay $4.85 billion to end thousands of state and federal lawsuits over its painkiller Vioxx in one of the largest drug settlements ever. Company officials estimated the deal, if accepted, would end 45,000 to 50,000 personal injury lawsuits involving U.S. Vioxx users who suffered a heart attack or ischemic stroke, the type in which blood flow to the brain is blocked. Negotiating teams met more than 50 times in eight states and spoke hundreds of times by telephone over many months to hammer out the deal, according to attorneys. Merck pulled Vioxx from the market Sept. 30, 2004 after its researchers determined the blockbuster arthritis treatment, then pulling in about $2.5 billion a year, doubled risk of heart attacks and strokes. To qualify for a settlement, plaintiffs must have filed claims by Thursday and meet several criteria, including medical proof that they suffered a heart attack or stroke, that they received at least 30 Vioxx pills and that they received enough pills to support a presumption that they were ingested within two weeks before injury. That is a big concession by Merck, which has long claimed that Vioxx caused harm only after 18 months of use. Merck said that the agreement is not a class action settlement and that it is not admitting fault. The deal becomes binding only if 85 percent of the plaintiffs in key categories agree to the deal—all pending heart attack and ischmic stroke cases, all cases involving deaths and all cases alleging more than 12 months of Vioxx use.

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