By Associated Press Staff

The maker of the painkiller Vioxx has agreed to pay more than $4.8 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits in one of the largest civil cases ever.

The Montgomery law firm of former Lieutenant Governor Jere Beasley helped negotiate the nationwide settlement with Merck, the manufacturer of Vioxx. The agreement was reached overnight in New Orleans.

Beasley says the settlement sets out a formula for how much each of the plaintiffs will get and it depends on the severity of the case. He says the settlement covers people who suffered heart attacks, as well as those who suffered strokes after taking Vioxx. Beasley says the agreement demonstrates the Food and Drug Administration needs to do a better job of regulating the drug industry.

Merck faced about 26,600 lawsuits representing 47,000 plaintiffs.



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