Merck may consider settling some Vioxx suits

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Merck said it may consider settling a small number of Vioxx cases with patients who claim they were harmed and fit a narrow profile.
Merck's general counsel said that the company has not changed its defense strategy of fighting every case in court, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. However, in cases where patients took Vioxx for more than 18 months and had no other risk factors for heart attacks or strokes, "we're going to have to carefully look at those cases," a Merck spokeswoman told the Journal.
The statement suggests for the first time that a settlement in a small number of cases may be part of Merck's plan and came less than a week after the company lost the first Vioxx case to go to trial. 
It is not known how many people took Vioxx daily for more than 18 months and who also had no other heart risk factors.
The tally of state and federal suits over Vioxx has climbed to 4,951 as of Aug. 15 – up from approximately 4,295 cases as of July 11.
Merck's next Vioxx trial is slated to begin Monday in state court in New Jersey.
The first federal Vioxx trial is set for Nov. 28, with trials to follow in February, March and April.

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