Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Merck Agrees to Pay US $950 M to Settle Vioxx Claims

RofecoxibImage via WikipediaMerck will pay $950 million and a unit of the company will plead guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge to resolve a U.S. probe of its illegal marketing of the painkiller Vioxx.

The criminal plea is tied to Merck’s off-label promotion of rofecoxib for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) from 1999 until 2002, since the drug did not have an indication for RA at that time. The civil settlement is tied to a broader range of allegedly illegal conduct by Merck, including statements about the cardiovascular safety of rofecoxib made by Merck representatives. The company will also enter into an expansive corporate integrity agreement with the government.

From a press release:

Under civil settlement agreements signed with the United States and individually with 43 states and the District of Columbia, Merck will pay approximately two-thirds of the reserved charge to resolve civil allegations related to Vioxx. As a result, the United States and the participating states have released Merck from civil liability related to the governments' allegations regarding the sale and marketing of Vioxx in the United States. Previously disclosed litigation with seven states remains outstanding.
The civil settlement does not constitute any admission by Merck of any liability or wrongdoing.
"We believe that Merck acted responsibly and in good faith in connection with the conduct at issue in these civil settlement agreements, including activities concerning the safety profile of Vioxx," said Bruce N. Kuhlik, executive vice president and general counsel of Merck.
Separately, the company agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act arising out of the marketing of Vioxx by company representatives to physicians in the United States for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis before the FDA's approval of that indication in April 2002. The company will pay a fine of approximately one-third of the reserved amount to the federal government as part of the plea agreement.

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