Vioxx plaintiffs have some more time to apply for a settlement over the defective drug. Lawyers now have an extra month to submit paperwork for their client seeking early payment from a $4.85 billion federal court settlement involving the painkiller Vioxx. The deadline for enrolling plaintiffs to receive the early payments from Merck & Co. is February 29th. Some lawyers are having trouble obtaining and compiling all the necessary medical and other supporting paperwork, so the deadline for that submission has been moved to March 30th, lawyers told U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon on Thursday. Those whose lawyers submitted their names and Social Security numbers by February 29th and their medical and other supporting paperwork by March 30th could receive partial payments by late summer, Kent Jarrell, a Merck spokesman, said.
Attorneys registered over 58,000 people as interested in the settlement and have formally enrolled over 13,200, Jarrell said. A rush is expected to occur in the final 24 to 48 hours, but numbers are changing by the minute, said Warren Brown of Brown Greer LLC, the company administering the settlement. “There were more than 29,000 yesterday. This morning, it was 30,041,” he said. About 26,000 to 27,000 of those suffered heart attacks or strokes, which they blame on Vioxx, adding that lawyers listed more than 20,000 claims in the 48 hours before the January 15th registration deadline. Lawyers have at least until July 10th, and even as late as October 30th of this year, to file claims for those not seeking early partial payments.
Lawyers for Merck and the plaintiffs say the agreement could close most of the 61,100 cases, which includes about 47,000 people whose lawsuits were filed before the settlement was announced on November 9th and another 14,100 with agreements with Merck permitting them to file after the statute of limitations ran out—generally, two or three years following an alleged injury. Merck said at least 85 percent of people in different groups of claimants must sign on for the agreement to pass.
A lawyer for 230 Florida residents asked Fallon to add them to the list of those eligible saying he had agreements with the committee of lawyers set up to represent plaintiffs in the federal litigation before the judge. Suits were not filed for the group because Florida’s four-year statute of limitations had not run out; the attorney claims he had no way of knowing the settlement’s limits because Fallon ordered secret negotiations.
Rofecoxib is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug—or NSAID—developed by Merck for the treatment of osteoarthritis, acute pain conditions, and dysmenorrhoea and gained widespread acceptance among physicians. Worldwide, over 80 million people were prescribed rofecoxib—also known as Vioxx—at one time or another. Vioxx was approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 20, 1999 and was subsequently marketed under the brand names Vioxx, Ceoxx, and Ceeoxx. On September 30, 2004, Merck voluntarily withdrew rofecoxib from the market over concerns of increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term, high-dosage use. Vioxx was one of the most widely used drugs ever to be withdrawn from the market.