Merck & Co, the manufacturer of Vioxx, have offered to pay $4.85 billion in order to end the thousands of state and federal lawsuits over the painkiller. This is one of the largest drug settlements ever.
According to company officials, if the deal is accepted it would end 45,000 to 50,000 personal injury lawsuits. The lawsuits involve users of Vioxx in the U.S. who have suffered a heart attack or ischemic stroke after using the drug. An ischemic stroke is one in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.
“Without this settlement, the litigation might very well stretch on for years,” said Merck executive vice president Kenneth Frazier.
Vioxx was removed from the market on September 30th, 2004, after it was determined that the arthritis treatment medication doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The deadline for filing claims for this Drug Recall settlement ended Thursday, November 15th,, 2007. Plaintiffs had to meet various criteria to qualify, including proof that they received at least 30 Vioxx pills, and medical proof that they suffered a heart attack or stroke. Previously, Merck has claimed that Vioxx only caused harm after 18 months of use. But those claims were dismissed by plaintiffs’ lawyers and independent scientists. However, Merck says that the agreement is not admitting fault, and that it is not a class action settlement.
According to company executives and attorneys, every case will be fought individually. “Every claimant is going to be compensated,” said one of the plaintiff lawyers who helped negotiate the settlement. But payments will vary, depending on the length of time that Vioxx was used, each person’s risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and severity of injuries.