Three years after the popular painkiller Vioxx was removed from the market because it was linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, manufacturer Merck & Co. announced it would pay $4.85 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits.
The settlement was one of the largest ever in civil litigation and will be used to pay some 27,000 suits. Many were filed for Vioxx victims by Kline & Specter, PC, a national leader in the Vioxx litigation. The massive settlement was reached after lengthy negotiations with Merck's lawyers. Tom Kline is a member of the Plantiff's Steering Committee for the federal Vioxx litigation and has been described by The Wall Street Journal as a "key player" in the development of the litigation. (See stories )
Removal of Vioxx was announced Sept. 30, 2004 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (See the FDA news release.) The action occurred after a study by Merck of Vioxx/rofecoxib suggested that some Vioxx users faced twice the risk of suffering a heart attack. More recent data, released September 2006, concluded that Vioxx increased heart and kidney risks, in some cases within 30 days after treatment. (Read the article.)
On Aug. 19, 2005, in the first verdict of a Vioxx-related personal injury lawsuit, a Texas jury found Merck liable for the 2001 death of a man who had taken the medication and awarded $253.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages to his widow. News agencies, such as CNN, projected the case “could have a profound effect on thousands of other cases filed against the company.” (See stories, CNN, New York Times)
In April 2008, two new allegations surfaced against Merck and Vioxx. One was that the company manipulated data to hide the increased mortality risk of the pain drug. The other was the revelation that Merck used company employees or ghostwriters to write papers lauding Vioxx and naming leading professors -- who often did little work -- as the authors. (Read article.)
Kline & Specter, PC, with more than 35 experienced attorneys (several of them also highly regarded doctors), is one of the nation's leading law firms with the ability to litigate Vioxx lawsuits. Kline & Specter, based in Philadelphia and with offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, was among the handful of law firms spearheading the national litigation against Merck, with our Vioxx attorneys deposing ranking Merck & Co. executives and scientists.
Besides serving on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee, Kline deposed key witnesses in the Vioxx litigation. Shanin Specter took the depositions of Merck CEO Ray Gilmartin, Merck Research Laboratories President Peter Kim, Merck former Senior Vice-President Alan Neis and Merck Senior Biostatistician Deborah Shapiro. Specter's examination of Shapiro was held by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee to be the only evidence sufficient to support a punitive damages verdict against Merck. (View Kim deposition excerpts  . View Shapiro deposition excerpts  .)
Background: Vioxx was approved in the late 1990s and immediately surged toward the top of the drug sales charts as the latest and greatest in pain medication. Vioxx was considered more effective than traditional pain killers and to cause fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
But as Vioxx became widely used, problems arose, including serious heart ailments. Merck's own study showed that patients who took Vioxx had a greater tendency to experience serious cardiovascular events.
Articles in medical journals also stated that Vioxx – a Cox-2 inhibitor – may increase the risk not only of heart attack but also stroke and kidney failure.
In 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug issued a "Warning Letter” about Vioxx. It told Merck that its review of the company’s promotional activities and materials for Vioxx were “false, lacking in fair balance or otherwise misleading.” The FDA also blasted Merck for minimizing and omitting important risk information about using Vioxx along with other drugs.
* Note: Vioxx is commonly misspelled Viox.
- Tom Kline interview on Vioxx settlement, The Legal Intelligencer 11/12/07
- Tom Kline on short-term Vioxx risk Business Week 7/20/07
- Tom Kline on $47.5 million Vioxx verdict, The Philadelphia Inquirer 3/13/07
- Tom Kline on Vioxx trial "shadow juries," The Star-Ledger 2/13/07
- The Wall Street Journal quotes Tom Kline on New Vioxx Study, 5/12/06
- Tom Kline quoted on Vioxx Risk After Use Ended, Wall Street Journal, 5/12/06
- Wall Street Journal quotes Tom kline on Vioxx "Trial in a Box", 4/17/06
- Kline & Specter work called key in verdict vs. Vioxx, Legal Intelligencer, 4/12/06
- Tom Kline quoted on federal Vioxx litigation, Wall Street Journal, 3/17/06
- Tom Kline quoted by Wall Street Journal on federal drug labeling 1/14/06
- More highs, lows expected for Merck in Vioxx trials, The Philadelphia Inquirer 11/07/05
- Maker of Vioxx Says Some Suits May Be Settled, New York Times 08/26/2005
- Merck Braces for More Vioxx Lawsuits, The Wall Street Journal 08/23/2005
- Merck Loss Jolts Drug Giant, Industry, The Wall Street Journal 08/22/2005
- Aftershocks From Vioxx Verdict, The Philadelphia Inquirer 08/20/2005
- Merck & Co. Found Liable In Nation's First Vioxx Trial, Associated Press 08/19/2005
- Tom Kline interview on latest Vioxx ruling, Fox News 9/07/07
- Tom Kline interviewed on the latest Vioxx litigation, Fox News 1/22/07
- Vioxx verdicts discussed by Tom Kline, Fox News 8/18/06
- Tom Kline discusses FDA advisory board, Fox News 7/25/06
- Tom Kline on the latest Vioxx verdict, Fox News 7/14/06
- Tom Kline on Fox TV on the latest Vioxx revelation, 6/30/06
- Tom Kline interviewed on major Vioxx verdict 4/7/06
- Tom Kline interviewed by CNBC on Vioxx verdicts, 4/6/06
- Tom Kline discusses Vioxx cases, Fox News 4/5/06
- Tom Kline discusses Vioxx litigation on Fox News 11/02/05
- Vioxx discussed with Tom Kline on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer 11/17/04
- Lisa Williams and Tom Kline discuss Vioxx on Channel 13 News 10/14/04
- Tom Kline on Viocxx heart attack case, Fox News 10/5/04