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Merck May Settle Some Vioxx Lawsuits

As you recall, Merck lost the first of, what experts expect to be, countless Vioxx lawsuits to the tune of some $253 million in a Texas courtroom a week ago. At the time of the ruling, the word "settlement" wasn't in Merck's vocabulary. Staring at nearly 5,000 more lawsuits to contend with and many more to come, however, the mega-drug company may be having second thoughts...

Both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times (free link below) have reported Merck is considering settling an underdetermined number of cases involving patients who took Vioxx for more than 18 months and demonstrated no risk factors for strokes or heart attacks.

Makes great sense, considering Merck's former strategy about taking every Vioxx case to trial blew up in their faces when Texans awarded the widow of Robert Ernst more than a quarter billion dollars last week (although state caps on lawsuits reduced the award to $26 million).

Still, general counsel, Kenneth Frazier, says Merck's not interested in any sort of class-action settlement, but that could change in a hurry if the lawsuits keep piling up. Experts predict the New Jersey drugmaker could be staring at as many as 50,000 of them before it's all said and done. That's certainly possible, considering the number of Vioxx cases jumped by more than 600 in the past month.

We'll see what happens between now and the next trial convening in September, involving a man who suffered a heart attack after taking Vioxx for a short time, in New Jersey.

CBS MarketWatch August 26, 2005

The Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger August 26, 2005

New York Times August 26, 2005 Registration Required

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