Merck makes deal with Vioxx shareholders

Merck has tentatively settled those Vioxx shareholder lawsuits. Under the terms of the settlement, the company would pay $12.2 million and make some procedural changes designed to bolster drug safety.

The suits allege that Merck didn't publicly acknowledge safety problems with Vioxx early enough to warn shareholders (or patients, for that matter). These suits are among the last lingering legal troubles related to Vioxx, now that the company has dispensed with the patient liability suits in a $4.85 billion deal.

The latest settlement would require Merck to appoint a committee to address any urgent drug-safety risks, Bloomberg reports, and another to monitor drug safety on an ongoing basis. The company's code of conduct would be amended, and certain corporate governance procedures would be changed. Merck also would have a new medical officer--an independent third party--who would report to the CEO and serve as an executive voice on safety issues.

A New Jersey court gave the deal preliminary approval Monday, Bloomberg says, with an actual approval hearing scheduled for March 22.

- read the Bloomberg piece