Pharmaceutical giant Merck has agreed in principle to settle all remaining Vioxx lawsuits. The company has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to plaintiffs in 27,000 pending cases. The settlement was cobbled together after juries from New Jersey to California had heard about 20 cases. In the very first case a jury awarded $253 million dollars, but Merck had prevailed in the other cases.
According to published reports, Merck’s legal bills for the Vioxx litigation were running over $600 million dollars a year. The proposed agreement has to be accepted by 85% of those persons with pending cases. Lawyers involved in the litigation have indicated they are confident the deal will be finalized. Each plaintiff will receive an amount of money commensurate with the severity of his injuries. Published reports have estimated that the remaining 27,000 cases involve 47,000 plaintiffs. On average, each plaintiff then would receive approximately $100,000. Those persons who don’t want to take the deal can pursue their own claims.
The settlement does not, however, terminate pending criminal investigations against Merck. Several states, as well as the Department of Justice, are investigating Merck’s behavior. Although Merck withdrew the drug from the market in 2004, internal Merck documents showed the Merck scientists had voiced concerns about potential adverse health consequences years earlier. In addition, a large clinical trial in 2000 raised concerns about Vioxx.
The kicker? The settlement represents less than one year’s profits for Merck.