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Merck Sued by State of New York over Vioxx
Last month, the state and city of New York sued Merck & Co., Inc., the maker of the blockbuster drug Vioxx, for tens of millions of dollars paid by Medicaid and similar state programs for Vioxx prescriptions. This is the first case to be brought under New York's recently enacted False Claims Act, which allows the state to seek damages for the amount spent in Medicaid and EPIC health-care programs to pay for drugs prescribed under false pretenses, the attorney general's office said. The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, seeks damages, penalties and restitution for "tens of millions of taxpayer dollars wrongfully spent on Vioxx prescriptions," the office of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “This is another step in the city’s continuing litigation effort to recoup millions of dollars in overcharges by pharmaceutical companies to the Medicaid program for prescription drugs, and to protect the safety and health of New Yorkers.”
The lawsuit claims that Merck deliberately concealed information that Vioxx caused an increased risk in heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems. The complaint further argued that had doctors been properly informed about the risks of Vioxx, they never would have paid for it. Between 1999 and 2004 Medicaid and EPIC spent more than $100 million on Vioxx prescriptions in New York State, the attorney general's office said, referring to the New York State Medical Assistance Program and the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage plan.
New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo added, “Merck’s irresponsible and duplicitous conduct endangered the health of New Yorkers and wasted our tax dollars. As alleged in the complaint, even as evidence was piling up showing just how dangerous this drug was, Merck put profits above all else and put thousands at risk by continuing to push Vioxx inappropriately on doctors and patients.”
Vioxx brought in $2.5 billion in sales per year until the drug was recalled from the market in September of 2004 after studies showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who took it for at least 18 months. Currently, there are approximately 16,000 lawsuits pending over Vioxx. Merck has chosen to fight the cases one at a time. The law firm of Alley, Clark & Greiwe is pursuing hundreds of lawsuits for persons throughout the State of Florida who have been harmed by Vioxx.