Merck May Settle Some Vioxx Suits: Reports

The plaintiffs would have to meet certain criteria to be considered.
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Statements from

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

representatives suggest the drugmaker might ease off its earlier promise to defend every Vioxx case in court and could consider settling with some plaintiffs if they meet certain criteria.

Last week, the company lost a $253.4 million verdict in Texas to a woman who said her husband died while taking the company's blockbuster painkilling drug. Merck shares were down 10 cents to $27.67 Friday.

Now the company's general counsel, Kenneth Frazier, has told

The New York Times

Merck might be willing to settle with certain people who took the drug for a long time and didn't have many other risk factors for heart trouble.

"

We're going to have to carefully look" at cases that meet the standards set by the company, a Merck spokeswoman told

The Wall Street Journal

.

Reports indicate that around 5,000 Vioxx-related lawsuits have now been filed against Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J.

Vioxx was taken off the market last September after a study found the drug could be linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke if it was taken for more than 18 months.