Jon Campisi Feb. 26, 2013, 6:53am

Pennsylvania’s top law enforcer announced late last week that the commonwealth and

pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck have reached an $8.25 million settlement over claims that the company failed to disclose studies that showed the use of the drug Vioxx increased a patient’s risk of serious illness.

The office of Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced on Feb. 22 that after payment of attorneys’ fees and litigation costs, the commonwealth’s prescription assistance program, known as PACE, would receive $6.9 million from the settlement funds.

PACE helps qualified senior citizens pay for the medications they require.

“This settlement is great news for older Pennsylvanians who need assistance with purchasing their medications,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Brian Duke said in a statement issued by Kane’s Office. “We thank the Attorney General’s Office for helping secure this settlement for those in need.”

The commonwealth’s lawsuit against Merck alleged that the drug manufacturer didn’t make consumers aware of the dangers associated with Vioxx, which was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a painkiller in 1999, but later removed from the market because of reports it was causing health problems such as heart attack, stroke and even death in some instances.

In its complaint against Merck, the Attorney General’s Office stated that it would not have purchased the quantities of Vioxx it did had the drug company properly disclosed the studies revealing the associated health risks.

The $8.25 million settlement was negotiated by the Philadelphia-based law firm Cohen, Placitella and Roth P.C.

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