Merck’s nightmare over Vioxx continues. This is one that has cost the company dearly – on Wall Street, among physicians, in scientific circles, in the judicial system, and in the court of public opinion. The latest blow came from the New England Journal of Medicine which published additional information regarding the APPROVe study, one of two studies that led to the recall of Vioxx in September of 2004. This study included 2,586 patients who ingested Vioxx or a placebo. After three years of use of these drugs, the study concluded that Vioxx users had a 3.6% incidence of thrombotic events (heart attacks and strokes) versus a 2% incidence in the placebo group. The study further concluded that the increased risk of heart attacks and strokes associated with Vioxx emerged after just 18 months of use.
As has been highly publicized, more than 50,000 patients who suffered heart attacks, strokes or died after ingesting Vioxx are now participating in a nearly $5 billion settlement program being administered through the federal court in New Orleans. This settlement was announced after more than a year of secret negotiations and more than a dozen trials. Just prior to announcement of the settlement, Merck faced the prospect of spending far more than $5 billion in order to continue its win-at-all-costs litigation tactics. The Vioxx claims were submitted to a Claims Administrator over the Summer and partial payments began in August of 2008. It is expected that all of the qualifying Vioxx claimants should have their claims reviewed and paid in full within the next 18 months.