Vioxx Settlement Almost Wrapped Up

Merck & Co. has made a final $4.1 billion payment to its <"">Vioxx settlement fund. According to an Associated Press report, final payouts to former Vioxx users or their survivors should be made by the end of June.

Vioxx was approved for use in 1999, and quickly became a bestseller for Merck, with annual sales of $2.5 billion; however, the painkiller was pulled off the market in 2004 after an analysis of patients using Vioxx linked the defective drug to more than 27,000 heart attacks or sudden cardiac deaths in the U.S. from 1999 through 2003. The withdrawal prompted thousands of product liability lawsuits that claimed Merck didn’t properly warn doctors and patients of the drug’s risks.

To settle most of those suits, Merck established a $4.85 billion fund in November 2007. Merck set up a $4 billion fund for people who claim they suffered heart attacks as a result of Vioxx, and another $850 million fund for those who suffered ischemic strokes. The settlements were awarded on an individual bases, and the amount of money each plaintiff ultimately receives will vary.

According to the Associated Press, all Vioxx heart attack claims have already been paid or denied. Nearly 18,000 Vioxx stroke claims are in process, and about 7,400 of those resulted in initial payments.

The Associated Press is also reporting about 355 plaintiff groups did not join the settlement. Those lawsuits are still pending. Merck faces four Vioxx lawsuits this year, two bought by patients who didn’t participate in the settlement and two aimed at recovering costs related to use of the painkiller, the Associated Press said.

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