Just when you thought the Vioxx defective drug chapter had ended comes word that Merck & Co. is on the hook for another $23 million to settle claims by patients. The settlement was announced in papers filed in Louisiana federal court. Plaintiffs claim they suffered an economic loss when Merck made misrepresentations about the recalled painkiller.
Consumers who overpaid for their prescriptions filed the latest nationwide lawsuit to recoup what they paid for the recalled drug. Former users can expect to receive a minimum of $50 apiece if they can prove they were prescribed Vioxx for pain.
Merck has already paid claims by patients in Florida, South Carolina and New York who allege they were misled about the safety of Vioxx and those promises encouraged doctors to write an excessive number of prescriptions. Merck has also paid $220 million to settle consumer fraud lawsuits in Missouri in 2012. New York sued over the money spent on Vioxx through the state’s health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Former employees of Merck sued and Merck agreed to pay $49.5 million to reimburse their retirement funds.
Judge Eldon Fallon, the same Louisiana federal judge overseeing the Vioxx litigation since 2005, must still approve any final settlement.
Vioxx was pulled from the worldwide market on September 30, 2004, after Merck’s own studies showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. Merck paid $4.85 billion to settle lawsuits by 27,000 who were injured or suffered a heart attack or stroke after taking Vioxx.
Ultimately that $4.85 billion swelled to more than $5.8 billion which included $950 million Merck paid to end a government inquiry into its marketing methods.
The onetime blockbuster drug had generated sales in excess of $2.5 billion annually at its peak in 2003. Revenues of $1.3 billion were reported in 2004.
More than 20 million Americans had been prescribed Vioxx. Many more overseas also were prescribed the painkiller for arthritis which had been touted as a “miracle drug” by Merck of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.
Besides the cost of the medication, patients can also file for the cost of a medical consultation after Vioxx was removed from the market.