Merck & Co.’s decision late last week to pull Vioxx off the market for safety reasons has sparked an eruption of lawsuits one of them filed Monday on behalf of all Illinois residents who used the popular pain drug.
The class action complaint covers an estimated 300,000 people who took the medication for everything from arthritis pain to menstrual symptoms.
Merck voluntarily put a halt to Vioxx sales after a large study found that people taking the drug over many months had twice the risk of heart attack and stroke compared to those on a placebo. Patients were told to stop using Vioxx and to consult their doctors about alternatives.
Attorneys who filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court allege that Merck knew about Vioxx’s harmful side effects at least since 1999, when the drug was approved.
The suit seeks reimbursement for the cost of doctor visits and diagnostic procedures related to Vioxx use, as well as a refund of the money patients spent to buy the drug. No individual claim could exceed $75,000, according to the suit, which now must get certified by a judge as a class action case.
Numerous Vioxx-related lawsuits, including two seeking class-action status, had been lodged against Merck before the drug was taken off the market. Since then, more lawsuits have cropped up, including one filed Friday by a Missouri woman who claimed Vioxx killed her daughter.
“We anticipate additional lawsuits alleging personal injury from Vioxx may be filed,” said Merck spokesman Tony Plohoros. “We will vigorously defend against any such lawsuit.”