Jumat, 09 November 2007

Merck Settles Vioxx Lawsuits

The news media are reporting this morning that Merck has agreed to settle 27,000 lawsuits against the company for damages related to its painkiller, Vioxx, for $4.85 billion dollars. (See the New York Times online at nytimes.com, Nov. 9 - "Merck Agrees to Settle Vioxx Suits for $4.85 Billion"). Since the lawsuits cover about 47,000 plaintiffs, the average plaintiff will get around $100,000 before paying his/her lawyers 30-50%.

The issue of what Merck knew and when they knew it regarding the potential health damage that could be caused by Vioxx is highlighted in Human Biology 5th ed., pp. 182-183. Merck had vowed to fight each and every lawsuit over Vioxx in court, a strategy that seemed to work for the company. Because Merck won most of the first 20 cases, plaintiffs began to realize that their best hope was for a modest but guaranteed settlement, rather than the chance of nothing at all if they sued individually for huge amounts.

For Merck, $4.85 billion was less than Wall Street had anticipated, and less than one year’s profit.

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