Vioxx Litigation

What is Vioxx?

Vioxx® (rofecoxib) is a type of prescription pain medication known as a COX-2 selective nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or a COX-2 inhibitor. Considered a "miracle drug" when it was first offered by the pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Vioxx® provided millions of sufferers relief from arthritis pain and inflammation without the stomach upset or other risks associated with aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen. It also made billions of dollars for Merck between its introduction in May 1999 and September 30, 2004, when the company voluntarily withdrew Vioxx® from the worldwide market.

Why was Vioxx Taken off the Market?

Merck announced that it was withdrawing Vioxx® from the marketplace when its own research showed that the drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who took the drug for at least 18 months. Merck's three-year study, which was designed to find out whether Vioxx® would prevent polyps from forming in the colon, was abruptly halted when clinical trials showed that subjects who took Vioxx® for more than 18 months were at risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke--1.5% for the Vioxx® users, compared to 0.75% for subjects who were given a placebo.

Because of the cardiovascular risk connected with the sustained use of Vioxx®, Merck made the decision to withdraw the drug from the market. It did so without input from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); although, the FDA followed Merck's September 30, 2004, announcement with a public health advisory of its own concerning the possible risks associated with Vioxx® use.

Because of Merck's voluntary withdrawal of the drug, Vioxx® is no longer available for prescription in the United States.

What Risks are Associated with Taking Vioxx?

Patients taking Vioxx® have suffered:
  • Chest pains
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Blood clots
  • Serious bleeding
  • Strokes
  • Death

Although the risk that an individual patient taking Vioxx® will suffer a serious health effect is small, there is no way to predict which patients can take the drug safely and which ones cannot.

Why is Merck Being Sued?

In the five years Vioxx® was on the market, Merck spent hundreds of millions of dollars on commercials and other direct advertising to convince consumers, particularly arthritis sufferers, to ask their doctors for the drug. By the time it was withdrawn, more than 20 million Americans had taken Vioxx® at least once. Because it was so popular and widely known, the withdrawal of the painkiller represented the largest prescription drug recall in history.

The Vioxx® withdrawal spawned allegations concerning how long Merck had known about the drug's potentially life-threatening side effects, and raised doubts about the benefits of COX-2 inhibitors in general. These drugs, which included Vioxx®, Celebrex®, and Bextra®, were supposed to provide powerful pain relief without damaging the stomach lining. But they cost as much as $2 to $3 per day, and many doctors felt that they were hyped far beyond their medical value.

Given the risks posed by Vioxx®, many patients who have suffered ill effects and damages from taking the drug may be entitled to compensation from Merck. Since withdrawing the drug, the company has been named a defendant in nearly 5,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts, as well as suits filed in other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, and Turkey. Some tort lawyers and law firms have set up special Vioxx® claim hotlines and Vioxx® claim forms online. Merck initially stated that it would defend each lawsuit in court, but the company has since indicated a willingness to settle some cases involving patients who took the drug for 18 months or more.

In one case, a Texas jury awarded $235 million to a widow whose husband died after taking Vioxx®. The widow claimed that Merck failed to warn physicians about the danger posed by Vioxx®, that the drug was improperly designed, and that the company's negligence caused her husband's death. Other lawsuits claim that Merck, in the rush to beat competitors, especially Pfizer, Inc., the maker of Celebrex®, to bring the first COX-2 inhibitor to the market for treating arthritis, deliberately withheld information about the potentially fatal side-effects of Vioxx® from regulators and misled doctors about the known risks of taking the drug.

Who Can File A Vioxx Lawsuit?

If you have suffered a Vioxx®-related injury, or if you are a close family member of someone who died as a result of a Vioxx®-related injury, you may be able to file a Vioxx® lawsuit.

How Do I File a Vioxx Claim?

If you want to file a lawsuit, you should find a products liability lawyer as soon as possible. Each state has a time limit, called a statute of limitations, restricting how long you have to file your Vioxx® claim. The time limit varies from state to state. But if you wait too long, you will be barred from taking legal action.

When choosing a lawyer, you should look for someone who has experience dealing with Vioxx® lawsuits. After all, Merck has legal experts all over the country defending it against Vioxx® claims that are similar to yours. You should find a lawyer with proven experience in the field, someone who has the resources and contacts to deal with your case quickly and efficiently.

An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you about your options, including whether you should file an individual lawsuit or opt for a class action. Your lawyer may be able to advise you about your chances of success and give you an idea of how much compensation you can reasonably hope to recover.

Once you have selected a lawyer, you will need to provide information regarding:
  • When and how long you took Vioxx®, as well as the dosage
  • Whether you took Vioxx® regularly
  • What type of Vioxx®-related injury you suffered, when the injury occurred, and whether you were taking Vioxx® at the time

The more information you provide your lawyer, the better chance he or she will have of preparing a solid Vioxx® case for you. As your case develops, your lawyer will be able to advise you about accepting an out-of-court settlement, if one is offered, or if you should go to trial.

How Can I Report a Serious Side Effect With Vioxx to the FDA?

If you're aware of a serious adverse reaction to Vioxx®, the FDA encourages you to make a MedWatch report (click on "How to Report") or call 1-800-FDA-1088
Related Resources on

- Drug and Medical Devices Lawyers
- More information on the topics of Drug and Medical Devices, Products Liability and Class Actions
- Class Action message board for more help

Web Links

- Information from the FDA regarding Vioxx® and COX-2 inhibitors
- Merck's website which includes information about how to get a refund for your unused Vioxx® tablets
- DEA "Consumer Alert!" concerning buying drugs online

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