AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine has received more than $1.1 million in a nationwide federal court settlement with the manufacturer of the painkiller Vioxx over its failure to disclose potential adverse effects, according to the the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The drug company Merck paid state and the federal governments a total of nearly $950 million in civil damages and penalties to resolve claims on behalf of the Medicaid, Medicare and other federally funded health care programs, Attorney General William J. Schneider announced in a press release issued Friday.

The company pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegally introducing a drug into interstate commerce, the Justice Department said last month in a press release. Merck promoted Vioxx to treat rheumatoid arthritis before it was approved in 2002 by the FDA.

Merck agreed to pay a $321 million criminal fine.

In addition to the fine, Merck agreed to pay $426 million to the federal government and $202 million to state Medicaid agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services in Maine.

The misleading representations caused physicians to write prescriptions for Vioxx that they otherwise would not have written, resulting in Medicaid paying for prescriptions that should not have been submitted for reimbursement, Schneider said in the press release.

“The big payout by Merck follows multi-year investigations and extensive civil and criminal litigation,” Schneider said in the press release. “Especially where patient safety is at risk, we will work diligently with our state and federal partners to hold drug makers accountable for fraud and abuse and safeguard the taxpayer dollars that fund essential health care services for our most needy citizens.”

The pharmaceutical firm, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., pulled Vioxx from the market in more than 80 countries in 2004 after a clinical trial showed that it doubled the risk of heart attack, stroke and death, the New York Times reported last month.

In 2007, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits by people who said they or their relatives were injured or died after taking the drug, the newspaper reported.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Miller, director of the Healthcare Crimes Unit, handled this matter for Maine, according to the press release.

The Healthcare Crimes Unit is the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for the State of Maine charged with investigating and prosecuting financial fraud and other crimes committed by MaineCare providers or their employees, and investigating and prosecuting abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly and dependent persons that occurs in health care facilities or by health care providers.

17 replies on “Maine receives more than $1.1 million in Vioxx settlement”

  1. Isn’t this nice , the feds get money , the states get money and the person effected gets ?

    1. In 2007, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle 27,000 lawsuits by people who said they or their relatives were injured or died after taking the drug, the newspaper reported.

  2. What will DHHS do with the $1.1 million? They can’t seem to handle their money  very well, so maybe they will think they received $1.10 from Merck.

    1. I dont think it will go to DHHS. It will go into what they like to call the GENERAL fund… which will then be picked clean for administration cost.

  3. Ahhh, the drug companies.  If they should, they should make FDA pay something for passing this thing in the first place without testing it for long-term effectiveness without detrimental side effects.  They pay the government, the government gives them the fast track to docs, docs see a Merck rep, they get a kickback for pushing it and people get injured or die.  Shame on the FDA.  I’ll still with my cheap Rite-Aid daily aspirin, a brisk walk and keep my fingers crossed. Total corruption.  

      1. Pharmaceutical companies pay doctors for speaking engagements, via money or lavish vacations. The doctors will encourage other doctors to prescribe the drug for it’s intended use, or even for other uses that have not been approved by the FDA. Quite a few companies have been nailed on this. The link below also contains another link to the national data base of docs who take these kickbacks. 

        1. Mass outlawed that about 8 years ago. My other half used to bring home leftovers of a nice spread the pill pushers would send to the unit.  Even those where cut out because they amounted to more than $50.  Of course with about 75 hospitals and untold # of doctors in the immediate Boston area alone (and at least 3 big pharma research companies), something HAD to be done.   I’m sure there are some loopholes left to close, though.
          I still miss those gourmet sandwiches.  :)

  4. Watch that money closely, make sure LePage doesn’t hire anymore Family Members with that money.

    1. 4.85 billion for 27,000 lawsuits.  Let me see.. 33% lawyer payment=aprox. 1.4 billion  then expenses on top of that of another billion leaves 2.45 billion for 27,000 people. plus administrations fees to distribute the settlements , leaves you only 23 cents junker207 not the 30 cents you are demanding. we can discuss this at $400 per hour if you like..
      All this time I thought John Edwards wasn’t taking cases

  5. These fines are insultingly minimal and don’t come close to achieving justice given the damage that Vioxx did and the profits the drug generated for Merck. Indeed, I would suggest that Merck should have been tried for manslaughter on an epic scale. If that seems like hyperbole, I urge you read Dr. David Graham’s testimony before a congressional committee in November of 2004. (A Google search might still turn it up.) At the time, Graham was Associate Director for Science and Medicine in FDA’s Office of Drug Safety. Minimally, his research demonstrated that Vioxx caused 88,000 heart attacks, 30% of which were fatal. As evidence accumulated of this mounting disaster from 2000 to 2004, the Merck did not pull the drug from the market – not only a massive regulatory failure on the part of the FDA, but criminal wrongdoing on the part of Merck on an unimaginable scale.  That Merck executives were never put on trial on a multiple-count manslaughter charge by the U.S. Department of Justice is an outrage. When an individual or a corporation puts people at risk and someone (or people) die the appropriate charge is manslaughter. (Which is precisely why drunk drivers are charged with manslaughter if they cause accidents that result in fatalities.) I taught a white-collar and corporate crime course for over 20 years on one of the UMS campuses, before retiring. Students were always surprised at the massive and utterly callous disregard for human life on the part of many corporations. Conventional crime (so-called ‘street crime’) is, indeed, a serious problem and can be truly terrifying for victims and their families, but measured against the harm done by giant multinational corporations there is no comparison.

  6. hey here’s the Baffoon’s solution to the Medicaid shortfall and mis-handling of Medicaid funds – (Sic)

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