After about three years of mediation and litigation, Merck & Co. have finally agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle the class action lawsuit brought by people who suffered (or had family who suffered) heart attacks and strokes after having taken Vioxx.
Vioxx was recalled three years ago after it was discovered the widely popular pain killer may have doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes among patients who were taking it to relieve arthritis pain, according to clinical studies.
Some scientists and doctors estimate that Vioxx caused or attributed to over a hundred-thousand of heart attacks and over ten thousand deaths in the US alone.
It is alleged that the salespeople working for Merck played down the dangers of Vioxx, and an FDA employee said he was pressured to keep quiet about his concerns over the drug, according to a congressional testimony.
Attorneys and analysts originally predicted that Merck & Co would have to pay over $10 billion, but judges have thrown out thousands of lawsuits against Merck because the time limit for filing new claims had passed in most states. In the end, it seems Merck is getting away with paying a lot less than had been predicted. Fair? Probably not. But many people on both sides of the lawsuit are happy that some progress has been made after years of what had seemed to be a courtroom stalemate.
The Merck Vioxx lawsuit should serve as a reminder to anyone who has been, or who may have been, injured from a defective product to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The time limit on filing a claim against the makers of a defective product for personal injury vary by state, and waiting that extra day could be the difference between getting your medical bills paid, along with compensation for your pain and suffering – and being in debt for the rest of your life while a drug company or product manufacturer gets off with a slap on the wrist.
Despite this step by Merck, they are not out of the woods yet. Many states may still file claims against the company for the Medicare costs associated with Vioxx injuries, and Merck could still walk away from the settlement if less than 85% of the plaintiffs with pending cases do not agree to remove their claims from the courtroom and into a medical review panel.