Merck fined $950 million over painkiller marketing

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

WASHINGTON — Pharmaceutical giant Merck will pay nearly $1 billion to resolve criminal and civil charges for wrongfully marketing its former hit painkiller Vioxx, the US Department of Justice said.

Merck agreed to plead guilty to breaking the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act after it promoted Vioxx for rheumatoid arthritis when the drug had not been approved for that disease, the department statement said in a statement.

The criminal fine amounts to $321.6 million.

It also agreed to pay $628.4 million to settle civil charges related to the marketing of Vioxx and making false statements about its safety.

Merck began marketing the drug, known by its generic name of rofecoxib, in 1999, promoting it not just for its approved use as a painkiller but also as a way to fight arthritis.

The Justice Department said it ignored warnings to stop doing so and continued to do so until 2004, when Vioxx was pulled from the market after it was linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and stroke.

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