BOSTON, Aug. 5 /PRNewswire/ --- Attorneys representing consumers and third-party payors today announced a proposed $41.5 million settlement with drug manufacturers Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) and Schering-Plough Corporation (NYSE: SGP) to settle allegations the companies suppressed critical information about the efficacy and safety of prescription drugs Vytorin and Zetia. Merck and Schering-Plough previously settled similar claims with 35 states and the District of Columbia for $5.4 million.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro (HBSS), counsel for a nationwide class of third-party payors, brought the suit against manufacturers along with consumers in January 2008. Thomas M. Sobol, lead attorney on the case, hailed the agreement as an excellent result for plaintiffs.
"I am very pleased that we reached a comprehensive settlement that serves our clients' interest so well," Sobol said. "This settlement also reflects the vital role private litigation plays in holding pharmaceutical companies accountable when the FDA cannot."
Vytorin is the combination of prescription pills Zetia and Zocor, a statin available as a generic drug for about one-third the cost. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zetia and Vytorin on the basis that the drugs reduced "bad" - or LDL - cholesterol. Defendants failed to present any evidence to the FDA that these drugs actually reduced the risk of heart disease or strokes.
Plaintiffs allege Merck and Schering-Plough created a joint venture in an attempt to protect profits from Zocor, Merck's hugely profitable cholesterol drug, which would otherwise lose patent protection in January 2006. In an effort to stem the eventual loss of sales to a generic form of Zocor, defendants marketed Vytorin as a single pill and an improvement over Zocor alone.
The lawsuit alleges that an internal study showed the combination-drug, Vytorin was actually less effective in reducing arterial plaque buildup than Zocor alone. The study also showed that Vytorin posed serious safety concerns. Plaintiffs claim the drug makers did not disclose the results of this study and instead sought to delay and conceal the negative results, causing consumers and third-party payors to pay for unnecessary prescriptions of Vytorin and Zetia.
The lawsuit, filed under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), as well as the consumer protection statutes of New Jersey, California, Florida, Texas and Massachusetts is pending in United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.
The $41.5 million settlement is pending court approval. A preliminary approval hearing will be scheduled in the next month, followed by notice to members of the class.
You can review court documents on this case at www.hbsslaw.com.
About Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro is based in Seattle with offices in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Francisco. Since the firm's founding in 1993, it has developed a nationally recognized practice in class action and complex litigation. Among recent successes, HBSS has negotiated a pending $300 million settlement as lead counsel in the DRAM memory antitrust litigation; a $340 million recovery on behalf of Enron employees which is awaiting distribution; a $150 million settlement involving charges of illegally inflated charges for the drug Lupron, and served as co-counsel on the Visa/Mastercard litigation which resulted in a $3 billion settlement, the largest anti-trust settlement to date. HBSS also served as counsel in a $850 million settlement in the Washington Public Power Supply litigation and represented Washington and 12 other states in lawsuits against the tobacco industry that resulted in the largest settlement in the history of litigation. For a complete listing of HBSS cases, visit www.hbsslaw.com.
CONTACTS: Thomas M. Sobol (617) 482-3700 Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro Tom@hbsslaw.com Mark Firmani (206) 443-9357 Firmani + Associates, Inc. Mark@firmani.com
|SOURCE Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro|
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