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Some advertising schemes have a tendency to stay with the public longer than others. We all know that beef is what’s for dinner tonight and that Mikey likes Life cereal. In recent years, we are also reassured of the effectiveness of prescription medications. Even if you haven’t asked your doctor about Zyrtek or Claritan, you know that the good people at the pharmaceutical companies are working hard to promote your health- or at least get your attention. One commercial that might ring a few bells proclaimed, “Have no fear, Vioxx is here!” That’s pretty strong assurance for a drug, albeit prescription brand, and as it turns out, consumers had every reason to be afraid.

On September 26, Merck and Co., producer of Vioxx, settled with over 3,100 plaintiffs bringing a class action suit for wrongful deaths. A study conducted in 2000 revealed that the drug doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients. However, Merck was slow to release this information and recall its product from the market. Even though Merck was made aware of the danger to its patients, it took more than two years for the company to negotiate a new warning label with the Food and Drug Administration during which time the public was not told about the threats of heart attacks and strokes. Vioxx was still prescribed until 2004. The 3,100 suits that Merck chose to settle represent a small fraction of over 48,500 claims that have been brought against Vioxx.

The settlement, which is being handled by Brown Greer, LLP, totals more than $4.85 billion. (That is more than the U.S. government invested in August’s nationwide Cash for Clunkers program, which stimulated an investment spree for middle class America with a $3 billion investment.)

Lawsuit Financial first offers condolences to the families of those who died as a result of Merck’s negligence. If you or a loved one took Vioxx between 1999 and 2004, you should inform your current physician immediately if you have changed doctors since that time. Though it is unlikely that you will develop a problem now, it is important for the medication to be noted in your file since the extent and type of heart damage caused by the drug is still not entirely certain. Furthermore, if you or a member of your family suffered unexplained health problems while on Vioxx, inform your primary physician. Depending on whether the cause of your troubles can be determined or linked to the drug, you may be entitled to compensation from the very people at Merck who encouraged you to “have no fear”.

Whenever a pharmaceutical company markets unsafe medication, patients are placed at risk. Whether you have taken Vioxx or not, always stay informed about the prescriptions you are taking and stay alert for product recalls. If one of your medications is recalled, you might have grounds for a lawsuit. Consulting a personal injury attorney who specializes in pharmaceuticals and consumer product litigation can make you aware of your rights. Here at Injury Board, it is easy to find such an attorney who lives close to you and will be willing to consult with you about a potential lawsuit. If you have been harmed and do not think you can handle the expenses of a lawsuit, other services are available through organizations like Lawsuit Financial. Lawsuit Financial can help refer you to appropriate legal services while giving financial assistance to cover expenses related to your case as you wait for your settlement.

By staying informed and exercising caution, you can do more to protect both your health and your rights. If either is harmed by a pharmaceutical company, Lawsuit Financial is there to help so you can truly have “no fear”.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for JILL PAUL RN

    Mark, great article on Vioxx and Merck's settlement. The general public should be aware of the potential side effects of all prescription medications. In today's society we look to the Pharmaceutical industry to "cure" all ills when in fact, we could be creating more damage than the original problem that the patient presented with. At least, with prescription medications, one has the option of whether to take the drug or not, even though it has been prescribed by a Physician. In most instances, this is not the case with medical devices. Do Surgeons ask their patients if they agree to have mesh inserted during a hernia or pelvic prolapse surgery? Never!! Are patients' who are having a pacemaker inserted given the option of what manufacturer the Cardiologist or Surgeon will use? Never!! We trust their good judgement, knowledge and experience to use the "best" product available. However, this is not always the case. In the health care industry, we rely exclusively on FDA approval and are influenced by how aggressively a medical device product is marketed. The Medtronic Pacemaker and "new and improved" Sprint Fidelis lead is an example of aggressive marketing by a manufacturer to gain market share in a very competitive industry to increase their bottom line. As we all know now, the acceptance and use of the Sprint Fidelis lead was not a good decision on behalf of the Physicians implanting them. These leads fail and were subsequently recalled by Medtronic after having been implanted in over 250,000 patients whose lives depend on it. Mark, I have personal experience with the Sprint Fidelis lead failure when my husband was shocked inappropriately 37 consecutive times when his lead fractured due to no fault of his own - a manufacturing design defect - never tested by the FDA. That is why I am such a strong proponent of The Medical Device Safety Act - S540/HR1346. FDA preemption needs to be abolished. I will take this opportunity to encourage each and everyone of you to read this act and solicit support of your respective Congressmen/Women and Senators so that you, your children and grandchildren will have their day in court if they are injured by a defective medical device. I also encourage all of you reading this to join my ongoing petition and leave comments at Please remember, we didn't have the option of "popping" a pill at our discretion - not that I am making light of that. My husband's pacemaker insertion was a life or death situation. Thank you.

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