Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Merck to Pay at Least $21.8 Million to Settle Vioxx Lawsuits in Canada: Merck to Pay at Least $21.8M for Vioxx Suits

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Merck to Pay at Least $21.8 Million to Settle Vioxx Lawsuits in Canada: Merck to Pay at Least $21.8M for Vioxx Suits

Article excerpt

A pharmaceutical titan has agreed to compensate more than a thousand Canadians who blame the company's pain medication for increasing their risk of cardiac complications.

New Jersey-based Merck and Co. Inc., which maintains no wrongdoing, announced Thursday it would pay between $21.8 million and $37 million to settle a class action lawsuit with Canadians who say they experienced heart trouble after taking Vioxx.

The settlement -- which has yet to receive court approval -- includes about $10 million in fixed costs and legal fees. The rest will be determined based on the number of eligible claimants.

Mike Peerless, a lawyer with London, Ont.-based Siskinds LLP, who helped lead negotiations with Merck, said between 1,000 and 2,000 Canadians may be eligible to be compensated under the settlement.

He praised the deal as a satisfactory ending to a difficult case.

"This has been a very long and complicated case to work our way through. It was hard-fought at every step, but we're certainly very pleased on behalf of the plaintiffs to have come to a resolution," Peerless said in a telephone interview.

The Canadian settlement is the latest chapter in a more than decade-long saga involving Vioxx, which has been off the market for seven years as a result of the ongoing controversy surrounding it.

Merck touted the drug as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis starting in 1999 despite the fact the U.S. government had not approved its use for that purpose.

While doctors were permitted to write prescriptions for the drug, Merck was forbidden from marketing it as a treatment for that condition.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged Merck promoted Vioxx for rheumatoid arthritis for three years and continued to do so after getting a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration in September 2001.

The drug was approved as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in April 2002, but evidence later surfaced suggesting it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Vioxx was ultimately pulled from the market in 2004.

Since then, Merck has been embroiled in legal negotiations with plaintiffs who say they suffered heart attacks or other cardiac episodes while on the drug. …

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