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US state sues firm over medicine


The makers of a painkiller found to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke is now being sued by nine US states after Florida launched its own lawsuit.

Florida is suing drugmaker Merck & Co over what the state believes was deceptive marketing of its former prescription painkiller Vioxx, also marketed as Ceoxx and Ceeoxx.

The state is seeking restitution for all money spent by state health programmes on Vioxx, as well as civil penalties of up to $10,000 (£5,666) for each time that Merck’s advertising caused a Vioxx purchase to be made.

A lawsuit brought by Florida attorney general Bill McCollum claims that, “Merck’s costly promotional campaign was intended to convince purchasers that the drug was not only safe, but that they should demand it from their healthcare professionals for pain treatment”.

Florida’s Medicaid programme alone spent more than $80 million (£45 million) on Vioxx, once a blockbuster arthritis treatment, between 1999 and 2004. Merck pulled Vioxx from the market four years ago after its own research showed the pill doubled risk of heart attack and stroke.

A statement from Mr McCollum also alleges that the company attempted to intimidate physicians and researchers who questioned the drug’s safety.

A spokesman for Merck said the company had acted responsibly. “We intend to defend ourselves against the complaint,” he said.

Copyright PA Business 2008

Merck & Co

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