NEWS ALERT: MERCK SETTLES MUST PAY 4.85 Billion
TRENTON, N.J. - Merck & Co. issued a statement Friday it will pay $4.85 billion to end thousands of state and federal lawsuits over its painkiller Vioxx in one of the largest drug settlements ever. Merck has estimated that the deal, if it's accepted, would end 45,000 to 50,000 personal injury lawsuits of U.S. Vioxx users who suffered or were injured via heart attack or ischemic stroke. To qualify for a settlement, plaintiffs must have filed claims by Thursday (11/8/2007) and must meet several criteria, including medical proof that they suffered a heart attack or stroke, that they received at least 30 Vioxx pills.
A jury in Atlantic City, New Jersey, reversed the findings of a previous trial and awarded an Idaho man $47.5 millions of dollars when they ruled Merck & Co.'s Vioxx COX-2 inhibitor significantly contributed to his heart attack. The jurors awarded Frederick "Mike" Humeston and his wife $20 million in compensatory damages, and penalized Merck with $27.5 million in punitive damages.
Mr. Humeston is a 61-year old veteran and former postal worker that suffered a heart attack in September 2001 to relieve the pain in his knee caused by a shrapnel wound suffered in the Vietnam War. This ruling could have major repercussions because Merck claims Vioxx did not cause cardiac problems before 18 months of use, but Mr. Humeston took the drug for only two months before he had his heart attack.
Before being voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer, Vioxx, whose common name is rofecoxib, was widely prescribed and used for a variety of conditions including menstrual pain, osteoarthritis, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. At the time it was approved for consumer use back in 1999, it had been deemed safe for children and adults alike. Soon after it had been approved, millions of consumers began using it on a daily basis.
Vioxx belongs to a family of drugs called antisteroidal, anti- inflammatory drugs. These drugs are used to relieve pain, and reduce swelling and inflammation. Before Merck & Co. recalled the drug in 2004, it was a highly popular drug, but like all prescription medications, came with a host of possible side effects. Those taking Vioxx were warned that any of the following common side effects could result; constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, gas, heartburn, vomiting, nausea, upset stomach and difficulty swallowing. In addition, users were also warned that a number of more serious side effects were possible and these included; yellowing of the skin or eyes, blurred vision, black stools, fast heartbeat, swelling of eyelids, swelling of throat and lips, swelling of legs, ankles or feet unusual headache, stiff neck, severe nausea and vomiting, unexplained weight gain and fainting or passing out.
Before the recall, users of Vioxx were also warned about the multitude of other drugs that could interact with Vioxx in a negative manner. These drugs included, but were not limited to aspirin, diuretics, high blood pressure medication, herbal products, lithium, methotrexate, ibuprofen, alcohol, and many, many others.
The Food and Drug Administration issued a request to the manufacturer of Vioxx in 2005, asking that they recall the drug due to the overwhelming evidence that its' use could be attributed to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke; Merck obliged, but not before many lives had been affected. Recently, there have been many Vioxx related cases filling up the court system, with plaintiffs attempting to recover monetary awards for the pain and suffering they suffered due to using Vioxx.
Previous users of this controversial drug need to be aware that if they have been in any way affected by the drugs use, they should consult a competent attorney who has experience in handling drug recall cases. Many of these cases are having favorable outcomes for the victims, and there are numerous attorneys available to help someone who may have experienced problems due to Vioxx.8/9
A Bloomberg news article dated May 2, 2006 recently reported on the controversial drug Vioxx. Queen's University in Ontario, Canada performed a research study that revealed 1/4 of the 239 elderly patients using Vioxx experienced heart attacks anywhere from 6 to 13 days after starting therapy with the controversial drug. The results of the study were also published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Merck, the company that manufacturers Vioxx, and who is also the 4th largest drug maker in the United States, voluntarily recalled the drug in 2004 when studies concluded that for those using the drug, the risk of stroke and heart attacks were doubled after 18 months of consecutive use. At the time of the voluntary recall, there was no mention of short-term adverse effects caused by Vioxx.
At the time the Vioxx news article was published, Merck was facing approximately 11,500 lawsuits, mostly stemming from patients and their families, where heart attacks and strokes were thought to be the result of Vioxx use. Three of the lawsuits, all of which went before a jury, were decided in favor of the plaintiff, and awards for these particular three cases totaled a whopping $298.3 million. Furthermore, in April of 2006, a Texas family was awarded $32 million after it was concluded that their family member had died of a heart attack caused by Vioxx after using the drug for only one month.
During Canadian studies involving the drug, researchers followed 30,200 patients who used Vioxx for a period of 2 1/2 years. Of all the reported heart attacks, nearly all of them occurred in an average of 9 days after beginning treatment with the drug. Lawyers are arguing that Merck had not published its own findings, which lawyers say prove the inherent doubled risk of heart attacks and strokes was known to the drug's manufacturer.
With the Canadian research numbers being published and widely distributed, lawyers are hoping that Merck will admit they knew about the risks prior to the voluntary recall. Whether this will actually happen or not is anybody's guess. While many users of Vioxx are upset over the recent findings, many of them who have stopped using the drug can rest easy knowing that the research also concluded that once treatment with the drug is stopped, the risk of heart attack and stroke associated with it diminishes. There was also no link found to suggest that the risk increased more than double, even if the drug was taken for many years.