Vioxx settlement spawns mega-chatter

The Vioxx saga may seem to be drawing to a close, but the chatter about it has just begun. And just as "The End" at the close of an epic poem often leaves questions unresolved, so does the big $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement. The deal doesn't cover patient litigation in other countries, for instance. And as the Financial Times notes today, Vioxx leaves a legacy that will affect drugs and drugmaking for years to come. Regulators and patients and caregivers have grown more cautious about new drugs, and pharma companies more aggressive about defending themselves against massive litigation.

A quick Google search of Vioxx news today yields some 900 stories, some looking at the lasting effects of the Vioxx debacle, and some at the details and behind-the-scenes machinations of the settlement itself. Here's a sampling:

  • Why did Merck settle? Execs gave some insight during a conference call with media late Friday.
  • Plaintiffs will get their money according to a complicated point system. For instance, if they had an "event" before the company released trial data about the heart risks, they get 15 percent more; if after, they get 15 percent less.
  • When the money is portioned out, who will get what? The lawyer who led settlement negotiations estimates patients would get an average of $200,000. But from that, lawyers will take their cut, and insurers, including Medicaid and Medicare, may collect, too.
  • Moody's raised its outlook for Merck from "negative" to "developing" as Wall Street reacted favorably to news of the settlement.
  • Australian lawyers vow to pursue their class action against Merck, with new hopes of a payout.
  • Industry analysts are calling the settlement a victory for Merck.
  • In the end, Vioxx will be remembered for its effect on the entire pharmaceuticals industry.