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”.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.