The Associated Press reported today that Merck & Co., manufacturer of Vioxx, will begin making payments into a settlement fund beginning in August. In May, the drug company agreed to settle claims by as many as 47,000 groups of plaintiffs. Currently, more than 60,000 people have registered a claim that Vioxx caused heart attack or stroke.

Beasley Allen’s Andy Birchfield was co-lead counsel with Chris Seeger (Seeger Weis) for this multi-district litigation (MDL).

Merck will begin paying a total of $4.85 billion to the settlement fund with the first payment of $500 million. By providing the funding, Merck waives its right to walk away from the settlement deal, effective Aug. 4, and plans to make the first payment Aug. 6. Payments to claimants will begin before the end of August.

Vioxx became a popular pain medication after it was approved in 1999, with annual sales rising to $2.5 billion, and was used as an anti-inflammatory painkiller for arthritis patients. Merck pulled the drug from the market in September 2004 after a study linked it to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The settlement – one of the biggest ever in civil litigation – comes after nearly 20 Vioxx civil trials were held over the last two years.

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