NEW ORLEANS – More than 59,000 people have registered claims against drugmaker Merck & Co. for injury from painkiller Vioxx, and administrators have enough records to review about 9,100 of those claims.

With two deadlines early next week in the $4.85 billion settlement against Merck, “we still receive claimants coming forward for the first time,” Orran Brown of BrownGreer PLC, the law firm administering the claims, told U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon on Friday.

But people whose paperwork arrived early will be able to get partial payments before long. “We’re working toward making initial payments in August, and we’re on track for that,” Andy Birchfield, a plaintiffs’ attorney, said during Friday’s status conference.

Attorneys and individuals have registered 59,194 people with BrownGreer – the first step toward filing a claim that the once-popular painkiller caused a heart attack or stroke – including 59 in the past month, Brown said.

Monday is the deadline for filing a set of required legal papers, and the firm has those for 51,391 people, Brown said.

Tuesday is a more elastic deadline for medical and pharmacy records to back up claims. Knowing that it could be difficult to meet, extensions are built in from July 1 to Sept. 1 to Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, said Lynn Greer, Brown’s partner.

The Associated Press

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