PHARMACY

Merck settles Vioxx liability claims for $4.85 billion

BY Drew Buono

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck has entered into an agreement with the law firms that comprise the executive committee of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee of the federal multidistrict Vioxx litigation as well as representatives of plaintiffs’ counsel in state proceedings, which, in all, will settle 95 percent of the current claims in litigation against its painkiller drug Vioxx. The amount the company will pay as a result of this settlement is $4.85 billion.

The litigation is centered around claims that the drug caused heart attacks and strokes in thousands of users. The settlement marks a shift in strategy for Merck, which previously said it intended to fight Vioxx litigation on a case-by-base basis rather than consider a broad settlement.

“This agreement is the product of our defense strategy in the United States during the past three years and is consistent with our commitment to defend each claim individually through rigorous scientific scrutiny,” said Merck general counsel Bruce Kuhlik. “Under the agreement, there will be an orderly, documented and objective process to examine individual claims to determine if they qualify for payment.”

“The agreement is structured to provide a significant degree of certainty toward resolving the majority of the outstanding Vioxx product-liability claims in the United States for a fixed amount,” said Richard Clark, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Merck. The drugmaker said it would still defend all claims not included in the settlement. As of now, Merck has won 12 cases and lost five involving Vioxx.

Merck recalled the popular painkiller, which had $2.5 billion in annual sales, in September 2004 after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients taking it for more than 18 months.

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Eisai announces new hires and appointments

BY Drew Buono

WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. Eisai Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Eisai Co., today announced new hires and appointments within the company, which produces such drugs as the acid-reflux medication Aciphex and Aricept, which is used to treat mild, moderate and severe Alzheimer’s disease.

Sunitha Ramamurthy has joined Eisai Corporation of North America as compliance director of Research and Development. Christine Drobot has joined the company as counsel for Employment and Research and Development. Barbara Sudovar has joined Eisai Inc. as director of U.S. Market Research.

Steven Brown has been promoted to director of Marketing Finance and will be responsible for financial reporting and business planning of product line P&Ls. Prior to this promotion, Steven was associate director of Marketing Finance for two years and marketing finance manager on the Aricept brand for two years. Terry Paluga has been promoted to specialty district manager where she will oversee the Baltimore Specialty District.

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Study shows Zocor could increase incidence of sleep disorders

BY Drew Buono

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. A new study showed that patients on the cholesterol drug Zocor were three times as likely to suffer from insomnia than those who took another cholesterol drug Pravachol and those taking a placebo, according to Bloomberg.com.

Insomnia is listed as a possible side effect for all cholesterol-lowering drugs. Merck spokesman Ron Rogers said the company found no significant effects on sleep in its own insomnia studies comparing Zocor with pravastatin, the generic of Pravachol and a placebo. Nor did the company see sleep disruption as a side effect in two other studies testing the drug’s effectiveness in thousands of patients.

The National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, funded the study. Zocor was the world’s second-best-selling cholesterol pill, behind Pfizer’s Lipitor, before it lost patent protection in June 2006.

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