A pharmacist holds up a bottle of the arthritis drug Vioxx.
A pharmacist holds up a bottle of the arthritis drug Vioxx. - 
Listen To The Story


Scott Jagow: For awhile, it looked like we would see a hundred years of Vioxx trials. But last year, drug company Merck settled the lawsuits over it's the painkiller for $4.8 billion. This week, that money starts going to the victims. Dan Grech reports.

Dan Grech: More than 97 percent of people who sued Merck agreed to the settlement. That's nearly 50,000 people. Individual payouts will range from $5,000 to several million dollars. Still, many claimants say it's not enough.

Al Pennington is a retired TV broadcaster who had a heart attack after taking Vioxx:

Al Pennington: When they see that $4.85 billion figure, the public thinks, wow, those people are going to be rich. But then a lawyer takes 35-40 percent, the plaintiff is left with very little.

Pennington says his check will barely cover the prescription drugs he now takes for his weakened heart.

Claimants will start receiving their checks in a few weeks. That doesn't mean Merck's troubles are over. The company still faces hundreds of potential lawsuits.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.