Merck ($MRK) is wrapping up a Canadian class action suit by pledging to pay up to $37 million to Vioxx patients who developed heart problems after using the drug. The settlement includes $10 million in costs and fees, and will total between $21.8 million and $37 million depending upon the number of eligible claims.
Vioxx, of course, is the now-withdrawn painkiller that spawned billions of dollars' worth of litigation, including a $4.85 billion settlement that covers most of the U.S. plaintiffs. After evidence surfaced that Vioxx could trigger heart attacks and strokes, thousands of patients sued the drugmaker alleging that the company didn't do enough to warn them of the potential health risks. Meanwhile, the company faced a Justice Department probe into allegations that it marketed the drug for off-label use, including as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis before the FDA approved that indication. That investigation was settled last year with a $950 million deal.
Plaintiffs' lawyer Mike Peerless said up to 2,000 Canadians may be eligible for compensation. The settlement ends a "very long and complicated case," Peerless said, adding that he's pleased to have reached a resolution.
Merck, for its part, continues to admit no wrongdoing. "The evidence shows the company acted responsibly with Vioxx, from the careful study in clinical trials ... through the careful safety monitoring while Vioxx was on the market, right up through the decision to voluntarily withdraw the medicine in September 2004," the company said in a statement. The settlement "does not constitute any admission of liability."