FL sues Merck over Vioxx marketing

Florida's Attorney General has filed suit against Merck & Co., again, this time for allegedly deceptive marketing and promotion of joint pain drug Vioxx. The suit claims that Merck failed repeatedly to disclose the drug's adverse effects, while offering it to the state's Medicaid program as a safe painkiller, in direct violation of the state's Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act.

Vioxx has been off the market since 2004, when studies suggested that users had a greater risk of heart attack and stroke if they engaged in long-term use of the drug. Attorney General Bill McCollum has been investigating for three of the four years since the market pullout. His research concluded that the Florida Medicaid program spent $80 million on the drug between 1999 and 2004.

In the suit, McCollum contends that Merck tried to bully physicians and researchers who questioned the drug's safety, while possibly misrepresenting or concealing published evidence showing harmful side effects.

The lawsuit demands restitution to the state, plus interest, for all state program payments for Vioxx. It also seeks civil money penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

To learn more about the suit:
- read this South Florida Business Journal piece

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