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Thursday, August 23rd 2007

Where's The Vioxx Money?

Merck Is Holding All The Cards?

A New York Times article looks at how few have gotten paid from their Vioxx suits.

[N]one of the 45,000 people who have sued Merck, contending that they or their loved ones suffered heart attacks or strokes after taking Vioxx, have received payments from the company. The lawsuits continue, for now in a state of legal limbo, with little prospect of resolution.

In combating the litigation, Merck has made an aggressive, and so far successful, bet that forcing plaintiffs to trial will reduce the number of Vioxx lawsuits and, ultimately, its liability.

Promising to contest every case, Merck has spent more than $1 billion over the last three years in legal fees. It has refused, at least publicly, to consider even the possibility of an overall settlement to resolve all the lawsuits at once.

The strategy’s successes, from the view of Merck and its shareholders, are clear. In the last year, the company has won most of Vioxx cases that have reached juries. Though its stock plunged immediately after the Robert Ernst verdict, it has since risen 80 percent, easily outpacing those of other big drug makers. And estimates of Merck’s ultimate liability, once as high as $25 billion, are now closer to $5 billion, said C. Anthony Butler of Lehman Brothers.

I’ve sounded like a schill for pharma on this blog when it comes to Vioxx but you cannot read these case reports and news articles of individual suits and not be stunned. People with incredible risk factors for MI and CVD or with diagnosed CAD, who take Vioxx for two weeks and then want to put some responsibility for their MI on the drug? Not even a physician could sit up there with a straight face and give a completely accurate percentage for Vioxx’s contribution to the plantiff’s heart attack (versus all their other risk factors) in most of these cases. And we want twelve lay men and women, who have nothing better to do than serve on a jury, to sort it out?

Get real. I continue to applaud Merck for fighting every single Vioxx case.