May 20, 2008 / 4:40 PM / 12 years ago

Merck settles state Vioxx probes, to pay $58 million

A general view shows the Merck facility in Rahway, New Jersey November 28, 2005. REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc said on Tuesday it will pay $58 million to settle state investigations into its withdrawn pain drug Vioxx.

The payment, to be shared by 29 states and the District of Columbia, resolves previously disclosed probes under state consumer protection laws related to past activities involving Vioxx marketing, the drug maker said.

Merck last month announced it had taken a pretax charge of $55 million in the first quarter in anticipation of the settlement with state attorneys general.

“Today’s agreement enables Merck to put this matter behind us and focus on what Merck does best, developing new medicines,” Bruce Kuhlik, Merck’s general counsel, said in a statement.

Merck pulled the once-$2.5 billion-a-year drug from the market in September 2004 after a study found it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who took it for at least 18 months. By then the medicine had been used by some 20 million U.S. patients.

In November, Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to settle most of the claims that Vioxx caused heart attacks and strokes in thousands of users. At the time the settlement was announced, Merck was facing some 26,600 lawsuits from former Vioxx users or their relatives.

Merck shares were down 5 cents to $39.97 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Brian Moss

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