Merck ordered to pay nearly $5 billion to settle lawsuits over painkiller Vioxx

by Chris Clackum
NBC News

The makers of pain reliever Vioxx have agreed to pay billions to those hurt by the drug in what's believed to be the largest drug settlement ever.

Merck and Company made the announcement Friday.

As late as last month Merck was promising to fight 27,000 personal injury lawsuits, individually, if need be.

That won't be necessary after all.

Before a federal judge in New Orleans attorneys for both sides announced Merck has agreed to pay about 47,000 people a total of $4.85 billion if they can show Vioxx caused their, or a family member's, heart attack or stroke.

Three years ago, Merck pulled Vioxx from the market after its researchers determined the popular painkiller doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Lawsuits followed, with Merck winning ten of 15 verdicts.

Facing as much as 50-billion dollars in liability, Merck decided to settle for less than a tenth of that.

The deal still needs approval from 85-percent of the plaintiffs, which their lawyers expect to happen.