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Merck increases safety after Vioxx


US pharmaceutical company Merck has agreed to appoint two safety committees and settle shareholder lawsuits after withdrawing the arthritis drug Vioxx caused it to lose billions of dollars.

The pill was removed from sale in 2004 when it emerged Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes, which prompted about 50,000 lawsuits from patients, dependants and others who accused Merck officials of knowingly hiding the risks.

Vioxx generated peak sales of $2.5 billion (£1.6 billion) a year before it was pulled, and Merck reached a $4.85 billion settlement covering most of the lawsuits alleging Vioxx harmed or killed users in November 2007.

In the latest announcement to satisfy shareholders, the company said it would appoint a chief medical officer, and a product safety committee would monitor the safety of any drug Merck sold or studied, and enable employees to report safety concerns.

Details and results of all Merck’s new and ongoing experimental drug studies must be published.

Merck spokesman Ron Rogers said: “This proposed settlement is the best and most appropriate resolution of these suits and enables the company to put this matter behind it. It does not constitute an admission of liability or wrongful conduct.”

Copyright Press Association 2010

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