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Merck to pay $950 million to settle Vioxx drug charges news
24 November 2011

Merck & Co, the second largest drugmaker in the US, yesterday agreed to pay $950 million to settle criminal and civil charges arising from the promoting and marketing of its painkiller Vioxx drug, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said.

Vioxx, an anti-inflammatory drug, which was pulled from the market in 2004, was the centre of a long-running probe by the DoJ for Merck promoting the rheumatoid arthritis painkiller drug without approval for this indication from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), even after it received a warning from the regulator in 2001.

Although the FDA had approved Vioxx in 1999 for treating certain types of pain, Merck promoted Vioxx for rheumatoid arthritis before that use was approved by the FDA in 2002.

In the interim, for nearly three years, Merck promoted Vioxx for rheumatoid arthritis, for which it was admonished in an FDA warning letter issued in September 2001.      

Although Merck claimed that the drug posed no problem to the heart, the company was forced to pull it off the market in 2004 after a study found out that it increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Vioxx became Merck's third largest-selling drug by 2003, generating $2.5 billion in annual sales and brought in more than $11 billion from mid-1999 to September 2004. 

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Merck to pay $950 million to settle Vioxx drug charges