In August, Merck & Co. Inc. will begin paying settlement claims to those injured by Vioxx, the once-popular pain medication that was pulled from the marketplace in 2004 because of links to increased risk of cardiovascular problems in patients.
97 percent of those eligible have chosen to participate in the settlement, Merck announced last Thursday, and threshholds necessary to trigger funding of the claims have been met. In all, Merck reports that it expects to pay $4.85 billion to settle qualifying claims. According to Reuters, "[p]ersonal-injury lawyers representing former Vioxx users agreed to the settlement after Merck triumphed in a high percentage of court battles with plaintiffs who said the medicine had harmed them." Beginning in 1999, Vioxx (rofecoxib) was used to treat osteoarthritis and management of acute pain in adults. But in September 2004, Merck announced that it was withdrawing Vioxx from the market worldwide, due to increased risks of heart attack and stroke in users of the drug.