Florida plaintiffs seek damages in Vioxx settlement

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Vioxx plaintiffs in Florida are petitioning a federal court to expand Merck’s proposed $4.85 billion settlement to include those who did not file suit against the company by Nov. 9, 2007.

However, many lawyers involved in the Vioxx settlement oppose the petition, fearing that adding more plaintiffs would lessen the awards each eligible participant would receive.

If the situation is not resolved, Vioxx patients who did not file suit against Merck by the Nov. 9 deadline could still bring separate lawsuits, meaning that Merck’s Vioxx troubles – which the $4.85 billion settlement was supposed to resolve – would continue. When the Vioxx settlement agreement was announced on Nov. 9, 2007, it only applied to Vioxx patients who had filed suit by that day.

Vioxx was approved for use as a a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug in 1999, and became a blockbuster for Merck with annual sales of $2.5 billion. In 2004, the FDA 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.

Under Florida law, Vioxx plaintiffs had until Sept. 30 to file suit — three years after Merck pulled Vioxx from the market.  At the Nov. 9 deadline, about 300 Florida Vioxx plaintiffs had still not filed their lawsuits, nor had they reached agreements with Merck for deadline extensions.