Merck Slammed for $39 Million Over Vioxx Fraud
Having already shelled out billions to cover personal injury claims based on the dangerous side effects of Vioxx, Merck & Co. Inc. is now getting nailed for consumer fraud and deceptive marketing practices in connection with the anti-inflammatory drug that was prescribed to treat arthritis.
Merck and the lawyers for the plaintiffs in a Missouri class action announced on Nov. 1 that the drug maker will pay $39 million to settle claims that it promoted and sold Vioxx in violation of the state’s unfair business practices act.
Let the Marketing Begin
After the FDA approved Vioxx in May 1999, Merck immediately marketed the drug as a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, but Vioxx was not approved for that treatment until 2002, according to the settlement agreement. The drug was taken off the market in 2004 after evidence surfaced that taking it doubled the chance users would suffer a heart attack or stroke. The plaintiffs lined up. Merck settled or lost cases to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and in one massive settlement agreed to pay $4.85 billion while still refusing to accept any responsibility.
The Department of Justice also charged Merck with violating marketing laws, and numerous lawsuits were brought by states and individuals. The Missouri class action was one of them.
Sign Up for Refund
Under the settlement, qualifying Missouri consumers of Vioxx may be reimbursed in full for their Vioxx purchases in one of two ways, according to a press release from the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
If they don’t have proof of purchase (such as a letter from the prescribing doctor), former users of the drug can receive a one-time cash payment of $180 by submitting a valid claim form with their own declaration under oath; and if they do have proof of purchase, they can get $90 for each month they bought Vioxx.
“This settlement provides benefits that are as good as we could have achieved at trial if the jury had awarded the full amount of compensatory damages,” said co-lead counsel Don Downing of Gray, Ritter & Graham in St. Louis.
“After eight years of hard fought litigation we are pleased that we have secured full relief for the class through this settlement,” added co-lead counsel Patrick Stueve, a lawyer with Stueve Siegel Hansonin Kansas City, Mo.
For more on Merck, see Merck Slammed for $39 Million Over Vioxx Fraud.