Drug makers Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp. will pay $41.5 million to settle lawsuits concerning their cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia. The lawsuits accuse the companies of intentionally delaying the release of negative clinical study results that would hurt drug sales.
What Is Vytorin?
Vytorin is a medicine that combines two drugs, Zetia and Zocor, in one tablet. Vytorin is prescribed to lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood. Lowering LDL and raising HDL cholesterol blood levels may reduce the risk of plaque buildup in arteries. Plaque can cause a narrowing of the arteries, which leads to circulation problems, heart attacks and. strokes.
Vytorin No More Effective Than Generics
Vytorin is made up of Merck's Zocor combined with Schering-Plough's Zetia. Zocor is available in a low-priced generic form. The companies jointly marketed Vytorin as being an improvement that was more effective than Zocor alone.
However, an internal clinical study completed by the companies in 2006 showed that Vytorin wasn't more effective than the much cheaper generic form of Zocor in reducing plaque buildup in arteries. The companies didn't release the study results until 2008, after Congress began investigating the delay.
Drug Makers Pay Millions to Settle Claims
Consumers and insurers filed class action lawsuits against the drug manufacturers, claiming they violated consumer protection laws by covering up the negative study results. The proposed $41.5 million settlement will resolve over 140 cases pending against the companies in a New Jersey federal court. This settlement follows a $5.4 million settlement that the companies reached last month with various state attorneys general that made similar claims.
Can You Sue?
Did you buy or use Vytorin? Perhaps you could've used a much less-expensive generic drug that was just as effective. You may want to contact a products liability lawyer in your area to find out if you have a legal claim against the drug companies for sitting on findings that Vytorin was no more effective than lower-priced generics.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can I join in a class action lawsuit that was filed against the drug companies regarding Vytorin? Can I claim some of the settlement even though I was not part of the original lawsuit?
- I'm concerned about muscle weakness and other side-effects that I experienced while taking Vytorin. Have other patients had problems with the drug? What should I do to protect my health and legal rights?
- My mother took Vytorin for months before she died, and I think the drug may have been one of the causes of her death. Do I have a claim against the drug companies for her death? I don't want anyone else to lose a loved one because of a dangerous drug.