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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Merck to Pay $950 Million Over Vioxx

By Duff Wilson
The New York Times

Merck has agreed to pay $950 million and has pleaded guilty to a criminal charge over the marketing and sales of the painkiller Vioxx, the company and the Justice Department said Tuesday.

The negotiated settlement, which includes resolution of civil cases, was the latest of a series of fraud cases brought by federal and state prosecutors against major pharmaceutical companies.

By the time Vioxx, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999, was pulled off the market in 2004 because evidence showed that it posed a substantial heart risk, about 25 million Americans had taken the drug.

In a statement on Tuesday, Merck said that it had previously disclosed the seven-year investigation by the United States attorney in Massachusetts and had charged $950 million against its earnings in October 2010.

Merck agreed to pay a $321 million criminal fine and plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegally introducing a drug into interstate commerce, the Justice Department said in a news release. The charge arose from Merck’s promotion of Vioxx to treat rheumatoid arthritis before the Food and Drug Administration approved it for that purpose in 2002.


No person was held liable for Merck’s conduct. “It’s just a cost of doing business until a pharmaceutical executive does a perp walk,” said Erik Gordon, a pharmaceutical analyst and clinical assistant professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

The whole story is here.