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My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Friday, November 09, 2007

Breaking News: Merck Settles Vioxx Cases


Merck to pay $4.85 billion over Vioxx suits
Drug firm will settle thousands of claims drug fatal, or injured users
The Associated Press
updated 8:38 a.m. CT, Fri., Nov. 9, 2007

TRENTON, N.J. - Merck & Co. said Friday it will pay $4.85 billion to end thousands of lawsuits over its painkiller Vioxx in what is believed to be the largest drug settlement ever.

The deal becomes binding only if 85 percent of all plaintiffs in about 26,600 lawsuits agree to drop their cases. It was finalized in the early morning hours after attorneys for Merck and the plaintiffs met with three of the four judges overseeing nearly all Vioxx claims.

Merck faced personal injury lawsuits representing 47,000 plaintiffs, and about 265 potential class action cases, filed by people or family members who claimed the drug proved fatal or injured its users. The agreement covers cases filed in both federal and state courts.

Negotiating teams met more than 50 times in eight states and spoke hundreds of times over the telephone to hammer out the deal, according to attorneys.

“I’m very happy with it,” Chris Seeger, one of the six plaintiff lawyers who helped negotiate the settlement, said Friday. “It’s a tremendous way to resolve this litigation.”

Merck pulled Vioxx from the market Sept. 30, 2004 after its own research determined the then-blockbuster painkiller doubled risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Seeger said the deal was put in motion last December when three key judges pushed the parties to open out-of-court talks.

“Every claimant is going to be compensated” once their claim is validated, he said.

Seeger believes it is the largest settlement ever in the industry and said he will recommend that his 2,000 clients accept the deal.

Merck could put the uncertainty of millions of dollars in possible settlements that have plagued the pharmaceutical company behind it, though it has been fairly successful fighting cases individually, winning 10 of 15 court verdicts to date.

Analysts predicted early on that liability could reach $50 billion, but after losing its first case in a $253 million verdict, Merck has won a string of civil cases in numerous states.

The company said last month it had added $70 million to its reserves for defending lawsuits over the blockbuster painkiller that it pulled from the market three years ago. As of Sept. 30, Merck had reserved a total of $1.92 billion for legal expenses and spent a total of $1.2 billion.

Payments would vary, depending on severity of injuries and the length of time that Vioxx was used.

Attorneys for both sides were to present the deal Friday morning to U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon in New Orleans.



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