Lawsuits being filed by former Vioxx patients.

Just a month after the recall, Merck faced 375 lawsuits – representing 1,000 different plaintiff groups – as a result of its popular painkiller. It has been served with multiple class-action lawsuits as well. The company, which has only $630 million worth of product liability insurance to cover any Vioxx claims, has established no reserves for the litigation.

Unfortunately for Merck, plaintiffs have already cited human studies showing significant health risk when filing their cases.

Medical experts believe that as many as 160,000 people have been enjured with Vioxx. With thousands of cases expected – and multiple government probes under way – some analyst estimate that Merck could face legal damages totaling more than $50 billion.

Merck & Co. officials said Tuesday (December 14, 2004) they intend to defend aggressively their handling of the painkiller Vioxx against claims by patients who say they were harmed by the now-withdrawn drug.

More than 1,100 patient groups have filed 475 lawsuits against the New Jersey-based manufacturer, and its stock has fallen more than 35 percent since it pulled Vioxx on Sept. 30 2004. Merck withdrew the arthritis drug after a study linked its long-term use with increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Merck officials said at their annual business meeting that they will fight efforts to consolidate the lawsuits.

The embattled company faces an additional 18 securities lawsuits from shareholders and pension funds; investigations by Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department; and generic competition when its top-selling drug, the cholesterol fighter Zocor, loses patent protection in 2006.

General counsel Kenneth C. Frazier told analysts and investors that the nation’s No. 2 drugmaker will seek to move most Vioxx lawsuits to federal court. He said the company will not seek a global settlement but instead expects it to argue that cardiovascular problems are common among arthritis patients and that the study showed no increased heart attack risk until after 18 months of continuous use.

See also…

Dangerous Drugs and Medical Devices

Class Actions and Defective Products