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Key Vioxx Settlement Deadline Extended

Mar 26, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Merck & Co. has agreed to extend an important deadline for its Vioxx settlement. Now, people wishing to receive early partial payment of their settlement have an extra month to file paperwork backing up their Vioxx injury claim.  The deadline for those willing to wait for full payment remains July, but could go  as late as October.

Vioxx was approved for use in 1999, and quickly became a blockbuster for Merck, with annual sales of $2.5 billion. The Food & Drug Administration ordered the painkiller off the market after an analysis of patients using Vioxx linked the defective drug to more than 27,000 heart attacks or sudden cardiac deaths in the U.S. from 1999 through 2003. The Vioxx recall led to thousands of lawsuits.

Under the proposed Vioxx settlement which was announced in November,  Merck is to set up a $4 billion fund for people who claim they suffered heart attacks as a result of Vioxx, and another $850 million fund for those who suffered ischemic strokes. According to The Wall Street Journal, plaintiffs who agree to the Merck Vioxx settlement could see payments ranging from $50,000 on the low end to $1.5 million at the top, with an average above $200,000. Those amounts are subject to attorneys’ fees, expenses and liens from government entities like Medicaid and Medicare.

Vioxx plaintiffs who wished to receive early, partial payments of their settlements originally had to submit paperwork backing up their claims by March 31.  But the law firm appointed by U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon to administer claims told the judge that some plaintiff law firms - especially those representing many Vioxx victims - are still working on the claims.  The lawyer appointed by Fallon to help plaintiffs who were representing themselves also said his office sent letters last week to 314 who had not yet filed required papers, and was sending "another 900-some" letters this week reminding them of the paperwork deadline.  

As of Monday, 58,571 people were listed as wanting to join the settlement. However,  8,690 weren't eligible because they claim Vioxx caused a medical problem other than stroke or heart attack, the conditions covered by the settlement.  About 49,000 people had been found potentially eligible, and more than 46,000 of them have sent in at least some of the required documents.

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