Processing Magazine

Merck to Appoint Drug Safety Monitors to End Suits

February 11, 2010
Closing another chapter in the painful saga over withdrawn arthritis pill Vioxx, Merck & Co. has agreed to settle lawsuits brought by shareholders who lost billions by appointing two committees and a chief medical officer to monitor drug safety and keep the company honest. According to the Associated Press, Vioxx, which had peak sales of $2.5 billion a year, was pulled from the market in 2004 because it doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Thousands of lawsuits brought by patients, their survivors and others alleged Merck officials knew about those risks and hid them. In November 2007, Merck reached a $4.85 billion settlement to resolve most of the roughly 50,000 lawsuits alleging Vioxx users were harmed or killed. The new settlement would end state and federal lawsuits Merck stockholders filed against the company and more than two dozen current and former Merck executives and board members. Shareholders lost a combined $28 billion when Merck stock plunged overnight after it pulled Vioxx from the market on Sept. 30, 2004, but they won''t receive any reimbursement under the settlement, other than $12.15 million to cover their attorneys'' fees.