Vioxx plaintiffs sign on, deal proceeds

The Vioxx deal is a go. Enough plaintiffs have signed on to the $4.85 billion settlement to move forward, Merck announced, saying that more than 44,000 of the 47,000 eligible had submitted documentation to claim a share of the money.

Thus Merck has passed a key milestone in the deal, which comes after several years of litigation. For the settlement deal to go through, 85 percent of claimants had to enroll. By Friday's deadline 93 percent had signed up.

Next, claimants have to submit medical records that will be used to determine how much money each should receive. There's a whole matrix of requirements and payments. Plaintiffs lawyers estimate that payments will range from $50,000 to $1.5 million, or $200,000-plus on average. Compare that to a 2005 court award for a Texas plaintiff of $27.2 million. Of course Merck won 11 of 16 cases that went to trial, but still the potential liability for the thousands of Vioxx cases was much more than $4.85 billion. And any outlying litigation isn't expected, one analyst said, "to be all that meaningful for Merck."

- check out Merck's release
- read the Wall Street Journal story
- see the item in the WSJ Health Blog