After an estimated 27,000-plus deaths between 1999 and 2003 were attributed to heart attacks caused by taking Vioxx, a pain reliever from pharmaceutical company Merck, lawsuits brought forth by shareholders could draw to an end.
When Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004, after a study showed the drug caused the risk of heart attack or stroke to double in patients, shares dropped 27 percent and shareholders are believed to have lost a combined $28 billion.
Earlier this week, Merck agreed to pay just over $12.1 million in legal fees and in December 2009, the company appointed a new chief medical officer, Michael Rosenblatt, to head up the strengthening of their drug safety policies and procedures.
“We think it’s a fair settlement,” said Ron Rodgers, a spokesperson for Merck. “We think it’s the best and most appropriate resolution of these suits.”
Merck’s shareholders alleged that executives breached their fiduciary responsibility; claiming Vioxx was knowingly sold and marketed after the associated risks were brought to their attention.
Merck is hoping that the $12.1 million, along with the $4.85 billion the company paid to settle 40,000 personal injury claims in 2007 and the $80 million paid to drug-benefit plans for their associated losses, will finally put the Vioxx disaster to rest.
According to reports, Merck will have to establish two drug safety monitoring committees, register all clinical trial results, and amend its code of conduct. One of the new committees is to be responsible for identifying the risks that could affect the company or its customers, and then addressing the situation promptly. Data from clinical trials is to be submitted to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintained data bank.
For additional information about Vioxx and the dangers associated with the drug, see the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety study performed by David Graham.
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