Bryan Cohen Feb. 25, 2013, 6:10pm

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Legal Newsline) - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced a settlement Friday with Merck, the maker of the prescription drug Vioxx, to resolve allegations that it failed to disclose potential serious side effects of the painkiller.

Merck allegedly failed to disclose studies that showed that the use of Vioxx increased the user's risk of serious illnesses, such as stroke and heart attack. In the lawsuit, the state said that it would not have purchased the amount of Vioxx it did if Merck properly disclosed the studies showing the associated health risks.

"The Merck settlement will further support PACE programs and help grant access to affordable prescription drugs to our seniors in need," Kane said. "Merck had a clear legal obligation to disclose known harmful side effects from Vioxx to both the medical community and patients. Companies that fail to reveal pertinent facts about side effects from their drugs should be aware there are legal and monetary costs to pay for misleading the citizens of Pennsylvania."

Under the terms of the settlement, Merck will pay $8.25 million to the state, including $6.9 million to support the state's PACE prescription assistance program, which helps qualified seniors pay for needed medications. The rest of the settlement will pay attorney fees and litigation costs.

Vioxx was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999 as a painkiller, but the drug was removed from the U.S. market after reports that it caused health problems for some of its users, including stroke, heart attack and death.

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