US Pharmaceutical company Merck announced a 4.85 billion dollar settlement over lawsuits involving their anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx. This one settlement will resolve 95% of the law suits filed against the company following results that said that taking Vioxx for more than 18 months significantly increased the chances of having a heart attack.
While the agreement settles thousands of lawsuits filed after Merck's internal study pulled the product from shelves in September of 2004, it does not include an admission of liability in the case. It does mark a new direction for the company considering they had said they would fight the more than 27,000 lawsuits filed.
The drug maker will set up two funds, one with four billion dollars for claims of heart problems and another for 850 million dollars for ischemic stroke claims. They do not know how much each claimant will receive as the amounts will vary by claimant. Any and all claims will be reviewed on an individual basis. Merck emphasized that this was not a class-action settlement.
Merck will continue to fight all claims that are not included in the resolution process, the company said. The company had argued that it properly disclosed all potential risks attached to prolonged use of Vioxx. The company had experienced mixed results in the cases that had gone to trial.
The company's lawyers met with 3 of the 4 judges handling their cases and reached a settlement. Cases not included in this settlement will be fought.