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Vioxx Reaches Settlement

November 9, 2007, 4:15 PM by Jaine Andrews

Vioxx Reaches Settlement
Drug maker Merck's feeling pains in its pocket. The drug giant has agreed to pay one of the largest lawsuit settlements ever. 

Three years after withdrawing its pain medication Vioxx from the market, Merck announced Friday that it will pay 4.85 billion dollars to settle what could be as many as 47,000 lawsuits filed by people who claim they or their family members suffered injury or died after taking the drug. 

The company says it will pay the money into a fund and people who claim they were hurt by Vioxx can petition for money. Merck is stopping short, however, of calling today's move a class action settlement, and it says individual cases will be examined before any payments are made. To be eligible, people must prove they suffered heart attacks or strokes within 14 days of taking the popular painkiller. The company says people must also have taken at least 30 pills in all and that all awards will be based on how long a person took the medication and the severity of their injury. Lawyers say the move was a smart business decision. 

Settlement attorney, Russ Herman says, "We have clients that are very happy. I think one of the interesting things is it takes about a million dollars to try one of these cases." 

The settlement is one of the biggest ever involving civil litigation. It comes after 17 Vioxx civil trials were held over the past two years. Merck won 12 of those cases in court and lost five. The company pulled the drug from the market in September of 2004 after a study linked it to an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.

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