Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. has agreed to yet another huge settlement related to their prescription painkiller, Vioxx. In the class action suit, investors who had purchased Merck Stock between May 21, 1999 and October 29, 2004 had claimed that they were misled by Merck about the danger of Vioxx. Despite refusing to admit their liability or wrongdoing, Merck has now agreed to more than $5 billion in settlements since 2008.

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A Known Danger

Vioxx, one of the most commercially successful painkillers in the late 1990’s, received FDA approval in May of 1999. Just four months earlier, however, Merck had launched a study called the “Vioxx Gastrointestinal Outcomes Research” study, or VIGOR. Half the subjects received Vioxx, while the remaining half took naproxen, the active ingredient in brands like Aleve and Midol.

The study did exactly what Merck intended, showing a lower risk of gastrointestinal issues with Vioxx than naproxen. By November of 1999, however, it was becoming clear that Vioxx patients were nearly twice as likely to suffer severe heart problems, confirmed in a follow-up meeting in December.

Misleading Data

In May of 2000, Merck submitted the VIGOR results to the New England Journal of Medicine, but only includes information on 17 of the 20 heart attacks suffered by Vioxx patients in the study. Despite sending two sets of corrections to the NEJM, Merck didn’t tell anyone about the 3 additional heart attacks until October of 2000, nearly a year after VIGOR first revealed the danger of heart attacks. The drug was not pulled from the market until September of 2004.


While huge, the $830 million settlement pales in comparison with the $4.85 billion settlement agreed to by Merck in the product liability lawsuits. This case serves as a reminder that major drug companies and other corporations sometimes put profits before the health and safety of others, but should also remind victims that it is very possible to hold these negligent parties accountable.

When you retain Adler & Manson, our Kansas City attorneys will work aggressively to get you the money you need and deserve. Our firm has represented the rights of injury victims and their families since 1995, earning numerous accolades which attest to our quality of counsel.

Hold negligent drug companies responsible for the injuries they cause. Call (816) 333-0400 learn how we can help.

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