February 1, 2008
Merck: Facing Grand Jury Probe and more Vytorin Suits
Merck’s made today’s headlines yet again. The Wall Street Journal Reports that a federal grand jury is investigating whether Merck appropriately handled Vioxx. Here’s a short excerpt:
The grand-jury investigation comes at a time when thousands of plaintiffs are weighing whether to enroll in the pending settlement.
"The potential of an indictment can clearly be an incentive for [Merck] to settle civil cases," said Joseph L. Doherty, of Doherty & Quill, a Boston law firm. Mr. Doherty has one Vioxx client, whom he says he hadn't intended to enroll in the settlement. "The mere potential of an indictment probably won't change too many people's minds about whether to enter the proposed settlement."
In February 2007, the Whitehouse Station, N.J., company disclosed in its regulatory filings that the Justice Department issued a subpoena requesting information relating to the company's research, marketing and sales of Vioxx as part of a federal investigation under criminal statutes.
Merck disclosed in that filing that 31 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia are investigating its sales and marketing of Vioxx. The company said it is cooperating with authorities in all of these investigations.
And the Daily Record in Kansas City, Missouri reported last Wednesday that there are more than 50 Vytorin cases pending against Merck in Missouri’s Eastern and Western districts. Several of these suits seek class action status and damages of over a billion dollars. The theory, according to Benjamin Bertram of Bertman & Graf, is that "By not releasing data from the study . . patients were buying Vytorin when they could have had the same results from Zocor for a third of the costs."
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