Drug maker Merck will pay $950 million to resolve investigations into its marketing of the painkiller Vioxx. The Justice Department said Merck will pay $321.6 million in criminal fines and $628.4 million as a civil settlement agreement. The company also will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge that it marketed Vioxx as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis before getting FDA approval. Merck stopped selling Vioxx in 2004 after evidence showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. In 2007, the company paid $4.85 billion to settle around 50,000 Vioxx-related lawsuits.
The settlement resolves allegations that Merck made false, unproven, or misleading statements about Vioxx's safety to increase sales and made false statements to Medicaid agencies about its safety. Merck said the settlement does not constitute an admission of any liability or wrongdoing, and it said the government acknowledged that there was no basis to conclude that Merck's upper-level management was involved in the violations. Merck will accept federal monitoring as part of the agreement. (Read more Merck stories.)