The massive Vioxx settlement that our firm has been spearheading has been going extremely well. It has required a tremendous amount of time and effort to process all of the matters related to the settlement. As of November 2008, the Vioxx Claims Administrator has issued interim settlement payments to 3,055 Vioxx claimants who suffered a heart attack or sudden cardiac death. These claimants are represented by 167 different law firms. The total of the interim settlement funds paid equals $247,819,343. It is estimated that all heart attack/sudden cardiac death cases will receive interim and final payments by summer 2009. Interim settlement payments for stroke cases will commence in February 2009 in accordance with the terms of the settlement agreement.
As of October 2008, 48,419 claimants had enrolled in the Vioxx Settlement Program. The enrollment deadline had been extended until October 30, 2008, when Merck waived its Walk Away Right under Section 11.1.1 of the Settlement Agreement. As of November 20, 2008, 41,273 of those claimants had submitted claims materials sufficient for the Claims Administrator to review. The deadline for submitting Claims Packages was July 1, 2008. With the built-in extensions outlined in Exhibit 1.5 of the Settlement Agreement, claimants had until November 30, 2008, at the latest, to cure any deficiencies in their claims packages. Additional time, through December 30, 2008, has been extended for good cause shown.
The Claims Administrator continues to review claims packages to determine what claims qualify for compensation through the program. As an overview of the Vioxx Settlement Program, claims that qualify for compensation through the Settlement Program are being issued a Notice of Eligibility. Under the Settlement Agreement, a claim qualifies for compensation if:
• it meets certain criteria for a heart attack or ischemic stroke as established by a claimant’s medical records;
• if medical or pharmacy records document that at least 30 Vioxx pills were dispensed to a Vioxx claimant within any 60-day period prior to the injury; and
• if medical or pharmacy records establish that Vioxx was being used within 14 days of the injury.
Claims that are deemed ineligible by the Claims Administrator are issued a Notice of Ineligibility. If no additional medical records are submitted to the Claims Administrator for review in response to a Notice of Ineligibility, the claim will be reviewed by the Gates Committee for a final determination of eligibility. If found ineligible by the Gates Committee, a claimant can allow their claim to be extinguished, appeal the finding of ineligibility to a Special Master, or elect to return to the court system by filing a Stipulation of Future Evidence pursuant to § 2.7.3 of the Settlement Agreement.
Following the receipt of a Notice of Eligibility, eligible claimants will receive a Notice of Points Award, which contains the number of points awarded by the Claims Administrator based upon the Administrator’s objective review of the claimant’s medical and pharmacy records. The amount of money each claimant will receive in association with a claim is determined by multiplying the number of points awarded by the value of each point. The final point value will be determined after all Vioxx claims are evaluated. The current estimated value of a point in regard to heart attack claims is $1915.
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