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The U.S. Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for a securities fraud lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant, Merck & Co Inc., over its disclosures to investors about Vioxx, said Reuters.

Vioxx, was approved for use in 1999, quickly becoming a bestseller for Merck, with annual sales of $2.5 billion; however, the painkiller was pulled off the market in 2004 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. The withdrawal prompted thousands of product liability lawsuits that claimed Merck didn’t properly warn doctors and patients of the drug’s risks.
To settle most of those suits, Merck established a $4.85 billion fund in November 2007: $4 billion for people who claim they suffered heart attacks as a result of Vioxx, and another $850 million for those who suffered ischemic strokes. The settlements were awarded individually, and the amount each plaintiff ultimately receives will vary.

In the U.S., according to the AP, all Vioxx heart attack claims have already been paid or denied. Nearly 18,000 Vioxx stroke claims are in process, and about 7,400 of those resulted in initial payments. The AP also recently reported that about 355 plaintiff groups did not join the settlement; those lawsuits are still pending. Merck faces four Vioxx lawsuits this year, two bought by patients who didn’t participate in the settlement and two aimed at recovering costs related to use of the painkiller.


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