Drugs giant Merck & Co. which pulled its blockbuster painkiller Vioxx from shelves in September, is about to become the target of hundreds of plaintiffs’ lawyers, the New York Times reported on Friday.
The report said that the attorneys, representing people who claim injury or death because of the use of Vioxx, plan to meet next week to lay the foundations for a nationwide blitz against Merck.
Merck has been buffeted since the company pulled Vioxx after it was shown to increase the risk of heart attack and strokes.
The Times said lawyers expect the discussions to begin informally on Tuesday in Pasadena, Calif., in the hallways of a conference on Vioxx litigation that will also be open to defense lawyers.
On Thursday, at a meeting in Las Vegas for plaintiffs’ lawyers only -- those who are suing Merck, or plan to -- expect to discuss specific strategies, the report added.
Reserve, Louisiana-based Daniel E. Becnel Jr. told the newspaper that the Vioxx case “needs to be managed by the premier lawyers in the country.”
The specter of litigation against Merck has increased since the recall was issued in late September.
On Thursday, Swiss scientists writing in a report for British medical journal The Lancet said that the company should have pulled Vioxx four years ago because of data showing an elevated risk of a cardivascular event.
But Merck disputed the idea it knew of the drug’s problems that far in advance. Merck -- a drug known as a COX-2 inhibitor -- has been taken by an estimated 20 million Americans since its launch in 1999.