"We're very happy," said Regina lawyer Tony Merchant, whose firm represented about 1,000 clients. Merchant Law Group was one of 18 firms representing clients in this case.
"This agreement is structured to provide certainty and finality toward resolving Vioxx cases in Canada for a fixed amount," said a notice by executive vice president and general counsel Bruce N. Kuhlik which was posted on New Jersey-based Merck Frosst corporation's website late Thursday. "Under the agreement, there will be an orderly, documented and objective process to examine individual claims to determine qualification."
Under terms of the settlement, Merck will pay a total of between $21.8 million and $36.8 million to resolve all actions and claims against Vioxx in Canada. The settlement includes fixed costs of $6 million in legal fees, $3.5 million for provinces and territories and $1 million for administrative expenses involved in the settlement.
The amount for Vioxx users in Canada will be between $11.3 million and $26.4 million, with the amount determined by the final number of eligible claimants.
All amounts are in Canadian dollars.
"Claims for myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death will be evaluated on an individual basis by an independent administrator based on objective criteria related to various factors, including duration of Vioxx use, age and presence of risk factors. Individual awards for ischemic stroke claims will be a uniform amount not to exceed C$5,000," the posting said.
Putting a human face on this legal issue, Merchant said he was recently thinking of one client, an dedicated amateur athlete who was taking Vioxx for long-distance running "and ended up with a debilitating heart attack that put him in a wheelchair."
"For a person like that, the harm was huge and the harm on his family was huge. You ask for a remedy and then you just give up."
Because the lawsuits go back to 2004 and reflect medical problems before then, the clients to whom Merchant has been talking share an attitude of, "Oh, God, finally!"
As well, "the compensation isn't individually large enough for people to feel that they got this wonderful compensation," Merchant said Thursday afternoon.
"They've got a good conclusion, but not a wonderful conclusion."