Merck to Pay Pennsylvania $8.5 Million in Vioxx Case
From Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) (February 24, 2013)
Feb. 24--Merck & Co. Inc., will pay $8.5 million to settle allegations by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that the drugmaker inappropriately marketed its controversial painkiller Vioxx, which was withdrawn from the market in 2004.
State Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced that, after attorneys' fees are paid, $6.9 million will go to the PACE program, which helps low-income seniors buy prescription medicine.
Vioxx was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999 but was pulled from the market in 2004 amid reports that it was causing health problems, including heart attacks and strokes.
In settling the litigation, Merck did not admit any liability or wrongdoing.
"We believe that Merck acted responsibly and in good faith in connection with the matters at issue in this litigation, including activities concerning the safety profile of Vioxx," Bruce N. Kuhlik, executive vice president and general counsel of Merck, said in a statement.
In November 2011, Merck agreed to pay $950 million to the federal government and 43 states to settle allegations and claims related to how it sold Vioxx. New Jersey was among the 43 states, but Pennsylvania opted out.
Jim Donahue, Pennsylvania's acting executive deputy attorney general for public protection, said Friday that part of the rationale was that the joint federal-state settlement covered Medicaid purchases of Vioxx but did not include those made under the PACE program. Medicaid is the federal- and state-funded health insurance program for low-income Americans.
With assistance from the Philadelphia firm of Cohen, Placitella and Roth P.C., the commonwealth sued Merck and reached this settlement.
Contact David Sell at dsell@ phillynews.com or 215-854-4506. Read his blog at www.philly.com/phillypharma and on Twitter @phillypharma.
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Posted: February 2013
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