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Merck settles its Vioxx ills

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: For the last three years, drug giant Merck has vigorously defended itself against a wave of lawsuits over Vioxx, ever since a 2004 study showed the pain medicine increased the risks of heart attacks and strokes. This morning, Merck has agreed to settle a significant portion of those cases.

Let’s bring in Marketplace’s Alisa Roth, who is in New York. Alisa, what is this gonna cost Merck?

Alisa Roth: Well, Merck is gonna spend $4.85 billion to actually settle all these 27,000 lawsuits. But it’s already spent $1.2 billion on Vioxx-related legal stuff, so it’s really a fair amount of money that they’re putting out here.

Krizner: Now Merck has said time and again it would not settle. Is there any sense of why the company had this change of heart?

Roth: Well, part of it is this money that we were just talking about. This really limits how much they’re gonna have to pay. They know that they have to pay out this almost $5 billion, but that’s it — it’s done. It also just puts the problem behind them. Basically the Vioxx litigation has been hanging over Merck’s proverbial head for years, and this guarantees that it’s over, pretty much.

Krizner: Marketplace’s Alisa Roth in New York. Thanks so much for your time.

Roth: You’re welcome.

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