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Merck agrees $36m hit to settle Canadian Vioxx claims

Agreement will resolve all outstanding litigation in country for the withdrawn anti-inflammatory

Merck & Co has agreed to pay $36.4m (C$36.9m) to settle litigation over the sale of its discontinued anti-inflammatory Vioxx in Canada.

The deal, which still needs to be approved by the provincial courts, will resolve all claims related to the drug in the country.

Merck pulled Vioxx in 2004 after an internal study indicated the drug doubled the risk of heart attack in patients taking the medication for 18 months or more.

Since then, global settlements related to Vioxx have cost Merck billions of dollars, although the drug did see revenues of about $11bn during its five-year period on the market.

The latest settlement will see Merck pay between C$11.3m and C$26.4m to compensate Canadian patients prescribed Vioxx, with the total amount dependent on the final number of eligible claimants.

The total resolution also includes fixed costs of C$6.0m for class counsel fees, C$3.5m for Canadian provinces and territories and C$1.0m for administrative expenses, meaning Merck faces a minimum bill of $21.8m.

The drug was approved by global regulatory authorises based on the evidence of clinical trials involving about 10,000 patients and in a statement Merck reaffirmed its stance that it "continues to believe that the evidence shows the company acted responsibly with Vioxx".

The company concluded that the Canadian agreement "does not constitute any admission of liability".

In November 2011, Merck agreed to pay $950m to settle civil claims and criminal charges relating to its promotion and marketing of Vioxx.

Meanwhile, this week has seen another big pharma company settlement, with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) agreeing a $158m deal relating to the marketing its schizophrenia drug Risperdal.

J&J had been accused of promoting Risperdal for patient populations and disease states "for which it had no FDA-approved indication, including in the child and adolescent population".

20th January 2012

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