Merck to Pay $80 Million to Settle Some Vioxx Cases

August 4, 2009

Merck & Co has agreed to pay $80 million to settle 190 outstanding claims involving its withdrawn Vioxx pain drug, the company disclosed Monday.

The drugmaker, in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said it had recorded an $80 million charge in the second quarter to account for the settlement with third-party payors, such as unions and health insurance plans.

Merck also said it was told in the second quarter that the SEC has concluded its formal probe of the company’s actions involving Vioxx. That investigation began as an informal probe in November of 2004 and became formal in January of 2005.

Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market in 2004 after a study showed it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke in long-term users of the medicine.

Merck agreed in 2007 to pay $4.85 billion to settle thousands of personal-injury lawsuits from former Vioxx users who claimed the drug caused their heart attacks or strokes. But hundreds of lawsuits remain from those who were not eligible for the big settlement and from third-party payors looking to recoup the money they paid for Vioxx taken by their members.

The new settlement covers the 190 outstanding private third-party payor claims, including all actions pending in New Jersey and in the multi-district litigation that was consolidated in Louisiana, Merck said in the filing.

“We can confirm that there have been some discussions with plaintiffs’ attorneys about possible resolution of the litigation, but we cannot comment beyond what’s been reported in the filing,” said Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose.

Merck shares closed up 1 cent at $30.02 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Richard Chang)

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