Businessweek: Merck to Plead Guilty, Pay $950 Million in U.S. Vioxx Probe –

Merck to Plead Guilty, Pay $950 Million in U.S. Vioxx Probe – Businessweek

November 22, 2011, 5:07 PM EST
By Jef Feeley and David Voreacos

(Updates with company comment in fifth paragraph.)

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) — Merck & Co., the second-largest U.S. drugmaker, will pay $950 million and a unit of the company will plead guilty to a criminal charge to resolve a U.S. probe of its sales of the painkiller Vioxx.

Merck, Sharp & Dohme will plead guilty to a misdemeanor criminal count of misbranding Vioxx, the U.S. Justice Department said today in a statement. The company will pay a $321.6 million criminal fine and $628.3 million to resolve civil claims that it sold the drug for unapproved uses and misled users about its cardiovascular safety.

Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999, Vioxx became Merck’s third largest-selling drug by 2003, generating $2.5 billion in annual sales. The company pulled Vioxx off the market in 2004 after a study found it posed an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, and set aside $950 million in October 2010 to deal with the consequences of the criminal probe.

The company, based in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, already has agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle thousands of patient lawsuits claiming injuries, along with $1.9 billion for legal costs in defending and resolving the cases. The shares fell 33 cents, or 1 percent, to $33.81 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

“We believe that Merck acted responsibly and in good faith in connection with the conduct at issue in these civil settlement agreements, including activities concerning the safety profile of Vioxx,” Bruce N. Kuhlik, the company’s general counsel, said in a statement. (Read Full Article)




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