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Pharmaceutical giant Merck is to pay $4.85bn to discontinue thousands of lawsuits in the US over its painkiller Vioxx (rofecoxib), the company has announced.
The move, which is believed to be the largest drugs settlement ever, will only be binding if 85% of all plaintiffs in 26,600 lawsuits agree to drop their cases.
Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market on 30 September, 2004, after its own research found the medication doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The deal was agreed after attorneys for Merck and the plaintiffs met with three of the four judges overseeing nearly all of the claims concerning Vioxx.
Negotiating teams met more than 50 times in eight states and spoke hundreds of times over the telephone to hammer out the deal, according to sources.
Chris Seeger, one of the six plaintiff lawyers who helped negotiate the settlement, said: “I’m very happy with it. It’s a tremendous way to resolve this litigation.”
He revealed that the deal was put in motion last December when three judges pushed the parties to open out-of-court talks.
And he added that every claimant will be compensated once their claim is validated.
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