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News of the Day ... in Perspective


Merck pledges to fight each Vioxx case

Facing litigation that may exceed $20 billion, Merck has a $675 million war chest and plans to fight each case individually.

Setting aside a settlement fund “would attract many more plaintiffs,” said defense attorney James Tyrrell. Past experience with mass litigation supports this view. Wyeth allotted $3.75 billion in 1999 to settle a class-action suit about “fen-phen,” but costs spiraled to $21.1 billion as new claims emerged and tens of thousands of plaintiffs opted out of the agreement.

The first trial date is set for May 23 (Wall Street Journal, Apr 22, 2005).

“We see the beginning of the end of another American corporation,” writes biochemist Arthur Robinson. “Its bones will be picked over by the lawyers, with enough morsels thrown to their clients to justify the feeding frenzy” (Access to Energy, February 2005, see www.accesstoenergy.com).

Additional information:

Testimony by Sandra Kweder of the FDA before U.S. Senate, Nov 18, 2004, on the withdrawal of Vioxx.

“F.D.A. is advised to let pain pills stay on the market,” by Gardiner Harris, NY Times, Feb 19, 2005.

“Merck’s Vioxx withdrawal illustrates power of regulation by trial lawyers,” by Devon Herrick, Health Care News, Heartland Institute, December 2004.

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