Merck pays $830 M to settle class-action case over Vioxx

AP News
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Posted: Jan 15, 2016 10:43 AM

Merck will pay $830 million to resolve a federal class-action lawsuit involving shareholders and the painkiller Vioxx, which the drugmaker pulled from the market years ago over safety concerns.

Merck said Friday that the case involved people who purchased its securities between 1999 and 2004. The litigation focused on statements Merck made regarding Vioxx's cardiovascular safety.

Merck & Co. Inc. removed Vioxx from the market in 2004 after evidence showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The Justice Department has said that the Kenilworth, New Jersey, company made false statements about the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx to increase sales.

Federal officials also have said that Merck began illegally promoting Vioxx as a rheumatoid arthritis treatment almost immediately after it was approved in 1999. Companies are not allowed to market drugs for conditions that have not been approved by the FDA.

The company pleaded guilty several years ago to a misdemeanor count of violating marketing laws and made a $950 million payment. It also settled around 50,000 patient lawsuits in November 2007 for $4.85 billion.

Merck said Friday that it will wind up paying about $680 million for the latest settlement, after accounting for insurance policy funds. The company plans to record a charge for that payment in its fourth quarter report.

Merck said the settlement doesn't constitute an admission of any liability or wrongdoing. The company still faces individual securities lawsuits tied to Vioxx.

Merck shares fell 1.8 percent, or 93 cents, to $50.87 in trading Friday morning.