More reports on: Pharmaceuticals

Merck & Co agrees to pay $100 mn to settle NuvaRing contraceptive lawsuits

08 February 2014

Merck & Co yesterday said it has agreed to pay $100 million to resolve hundreds of lawsuits alleging that the company's NuvaRing contraceptive caused serious health risks.

More than 1,700 lawsuits have been filed against the company since early 2007 for having failed to warn users on the increased risks of blood clots to women, which could lead to heart attack, stroke, or even death.

NuvaRing is a flexible combination hormonal contraceptive vaginal ring used to prevent pregnancy. It contains a combination of two hormones progestin and estrogen. Birth control methods that contain both an estrogen and a progestin are called combination hormonal contraceptives.

It is a flexible plastic ring that releases a low dose of a progestin and estrogen over three weeks.

NuvaRing came into Merck's portfolio through its 2009 merger with Schering-Plough (See: Merck to acquire Schering- Plough for $41 billion), which in turn had acquired the product through its earlier purchase of the Netherlands-based human pharmaceutical company N V Organon.

The judge who reviewed the settlement offer said it is a ''fair resolution of this litigation,'' but if 95 per cent of the plaintiffs do not agree to the deal Merck can retract the offer.

Some analysts say that NuvaRing, which had sales of $686 million in 2013, the $100 million settlement offer is meagre since it works out to a little more than $58,000 per plaintiff.

They point out that German drug maker Bayer last year paid $1.6 billion to settle around 7,600 blood clot-related lawsuits for its Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills, amounting to over $200,000 per litigant.

"Merck may be getting out much more cheaply than its competitors because proving the liability case against the NuvaRing device appears to be more difficult than against the other contraceptives," Carl Tobias, who teaches liability law at the University of Richmond in Virginia, told Bloomberg.

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