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More Than 3,000 Death Claims will be Paid from Vioxx Settlement Fund

The law firm administering the $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement has reported that the families of more than 3,000 people who died while taking the drug will receive payments from the fund.

“We don’t know any drug right now with this number of deaths associated with it,” one plaintiffs’ attorney who has represented Vioxx victims told Bloomberg.com. (more…)

Pfizer to Pay $894 Million to Settle Celebrex, Bextra Lawsuits

Pfizer could soon settle at least 90 percent of the personal injury lawsuits it faces over the painkillers Bextra and Celebrex.  The company announced today that it hopes to finalize a $894 million settlement by the end of the year.

Celebrex and Bextra are COX-2 inhibitors, a class of drugs that also includes Merck’s recalled Vioxx.  Such medications are linked to an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ordered the painkiller off the market after an analysis of patients using Vioxx linked the defective drug to more than 27,000 heart attacks or sudden cardiac deaths in the U.S. from 1999 through 2003.

Last November, Merck announced a $4.85 billion settlement with the thousands of people who had filed Vioxx injury lawsuits.  Under the terms of the settlement, Merck set up a $4 billion fund for people who claim they suffered heart attacks as a result of Vioxx, and another $850 million fund for those who suffered ischemic strokes. Partial settlement payments started going out to some Vioxx plaintiffs last month.

Pfizer withdrew Bextra from the market in 2005, and  Celebrex is the only COX-2 inhibitor still on the market in the United States. Celebrex carries the FDA’s strictest “black-box” warning on its drug label, stating that it may cause an increased risk of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

Pfizer said it hopes to finalize the settlement by the end of the year.  A spokesperson for the company said that Pfizer would also like to include many of the remaining personal injury lawsuits the settlement.  The company will fight those not settled with court motions or at trial.

According to The New York Times, $760 million of the Bextra and Celebrex settlement would go to settle roughly 7,000  personal injury cases, $60 million will cover settlements with attorneys general in the 33 states and the District of Columbia, and $89 million will cover consumer fraud class action cases over reimbursement for money spent on the two drugs.

Even After Stopping Treatment, Vioxx Heart Risks Continue

People who took Vioxx continued face an risk of heart attack and stroke for a year after they stopped taking the now-banned painkiller, according to a new study. It is also likely that long-term use of other NSAIDs pose similar risks, the authors of the study said.

This latest Vioxx study involved  followed people who had participated in the international APPROVe trial, which compared Vioxx to placebo over 3 years in an attempt to see whether the drug could cut the recurrence of cancerous colon polyps. The trial was stopped early in 2004 because of the increased risk for heart attacks and stroke. Nearly 2600 people participated in the APPROVe trial, and the authors of the Lancet study said they were able to contact about 84 percent of them. (more…)

Vioxx Study Was Really Marketing Ploy

A new report says that Merck & Co. was more interested in marketing than science when it when it conducted a Vioxx study known as Advantage. According to internal Merck documents obtain in the course of Vioxx injury lawsuits, Advantage was called a “seeding trial”, the purpose which was to boost the confidence of 600 participating doctors in the new drug and get them to promote it to colleagues.

This is not the first time Vioxx trials run by Merck have raised serious ethical questions. In April, it was learned that Merck concealed mortality risks in two key Vioxx studies, and hired “ghostwriters” to author research that was supposedly conducted by independent scientists. According to articles that appeared in the April issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association”, an analysis of court documents uncovered in the course of Vioxx injury lawsuits found that Merck employees worked alone or with publishing companies to write study manuscripts and later recruited academic medical experts to put their names as first authors on the studies. In many cases, Merck’s involvement in producing the data wasn’t disclosed. (more…)

More Merck Vioxx Lies

Merck Inc. has been caught up in yet another Vioxx scandal. According to two reports published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” (JAMA), Merck concealed death rates in two studies involving Vioxx and Alzheimer’s Disease patients, and what’s more, the company used “ghostwriters” to author Vioxx studies that listed independent scientists as lead authors when they were published.

The conduct of Merck and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)  had already come under a great deal of scrutiny because of the Vioxx debacle. In 2004, an FDA study estimated that Vioxx could have contributed to 27,785 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths between 1999 and 2003. After Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004, it was revealed that the FDA had tried to silence the drug expert who headed that study. Dr. David Graham, associate director for science in the FDA Drug Center’s Office of Drug Safety, told Senate investigators that he had been subjected to veiled threats and intimidation when he informed the FDA of his findings. (more…)

Vioxx Subject of Grand Jury Investigation

More Vioxx troubles for Merck. According to the Wall Street Journal, the health-care-fraud unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts is investigating whether Merck promoted Vioxx to health-care professionals for uses other than those approved by government regulators, a practice known as off-label marketing.

Vioxx was pulled off the market in 2004, after it was linked to an increase of risk suddden cardiac deaths, and thousands of oroduct liability lawsuits. In November 2007, Merck announced a proposed $4.85 billion settlement with thousands of Vioxx plaintiffs, and by a January 2008 deadline, 95 percent of those eligible had registered for the settlement. (more…)

Vioxx Plaintiffs in Florida Ask for Settlement Changes

Vioxx plaintiffs in Florida are trying to convince the federal judge overseeing the $4.85 billion Merck Vioxx settlement to let them in on the deal, even though they did not file Vioxx lawsuits by the settlement’s Nov. 7, 2007 deadline. Lawyers for about 300 Vioxx plaintiffs in Florida claim that the lawsuits were not filed by the November deadline because under Florida law, they had until September 2008 to sue Merck for their Vioxx injuries.

According to the Associated Press, the Florida lawyers representing these plaintiffs say they had an agreement to set up an “amicable, working relationship” with the plaintiffs’ steering committee “for the mutual benefit of their clients,” and had submitted a list of clients who had not yet filed suit. However, they said, they weren’t informed that a settlement was close, and therefore could not get their clients’ situation considered. (more…)

Fate of Vioxx Settlement to Be Determined Today as Deadline Nears

The fate of the proposed $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement hangs in the balance, as patients who where injured by the defective drug have until the end of business today to decide whether or not to take part in the proposed Vioxx settlement with Merck Inc.    For the Merck Vioxx settlement to take effect, 85 percent of heart attack and stroke claimants must sign up by today’s deadline. According to Bloomberg.com, about half of the 60,800 people who sued have already signed up. Of those, 29,000 claimed heart attacks and 17,000 claimed strokes.

In order to be eligible for the settlement, Vioxx claimants will have to enter into a resolution process. Merck will set up a $4 billion fund for people who claim they suffered heart attacks as a result of Vioxx, and another $850 million fund for those who suffered ischemic strokes. The settlements will be awarded on an individual bases, and the amount of money each plaintiff ultimately receives will vary.  Under the terms of the Vioxx settlement agreement, Merck has admitted no fault for the defective drug.

(more…)

Fate of Vioxx Settlment At Stake as Deadlines Loom

Two big Vioxx settlement deadlines are coming, leaving those injured by  Vioxx with some big decisions to make.  How many Vioxx lawsuit patients actually sign on to the proposal will determine if the settlement with Merck ever goes into effect.

Under the proposed Vioxx settlement, Merck is to set up a $4 billion fund for people who claim they suffered heart attacks as a result of Vioxx, and another $850 million fund for those who suffered ischemic strokes. According to The Wall Street Journal, plaintiffs who agree to the Merck Vioxx settlement could see payments ranging from $50,000 on the low end to $1.5 million at the top, with an average above $200,000. Those amounts are subject to attorneys’ fees, expenses and liens from government entities like Medicaid and Medicare.

(more…)

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