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Today Merck & Co. announced that they will pay $4.85 billion to settle the thousands of Vioxx suits. This is not a class action settlement. Merck will place the money in a fund and those who claim to have been injured by the drug will be able to petition for the money. They say that each individual case will be assessed before payment is made. Merck had previously claimed that they fight every case, but with legal expenses growing with each and every passing day the company may have made a decision to just cut their losses and move on.

To be eligible for settlements, plaintiffs must provide medical evidence they suffered heart attacks or strokes and proof of having taken Vioxx pills within 14 days of their illness and 30 pills in all, the company said. Awards will depend on how long a person took the medication and the severity of injury.

This is one of the largest settlements ever reached in a civil litigation; however, it is a rather small sum when compared analysts estimated of damages. There have been estimates that Merck would end up paying out as much as $30 billion to those injured by the drug. So if you look at the settlement objectively it may be the best option that Merck could have obtained.

This does not close the book on Vioxx lawsuits but it certainly places a sizable impact on the situation.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Drugs, Medical Devices and Implants.

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