Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that drug manufacturer Merck has agreed to significantly change its refund program for consumers who used its recently recalled prescription pain drug, Vioxx. Myers, joined by Attorneys General from Michigan, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, contacted the pharmaceutical giant in October after Merck withdrew Vioxx from the marketplace.
"Although we appreciated Merck's decision to pull Vioxx off the shelves and provide refunds to consumers, the program was not only unduly burdensome, but it didn't provide the consumers with adequate notice."
At the time Vioxx was withdrawn from the marketplace, 20,000 Oregonians were estimated to have used Vioxx. The drug was approved by the FDA in 1999 to treat arthritis pain, menstrual pain and acute pain in adults. Merck withdrew Vioxx because of reports that the drug substantially increased some users' risks of heart attack and strokes.
The original consumer refund program was designed to reimburse consumers for Vioxx they had on hand at the time of the recall. Among other things, the Merck program required consumers to return all unused Vioxx in its original packaging in order to qualify for a refund.
Shortly after Merck's October announcement, Myers and four other Attorneys General wrote the drug company with suggestions about how its refund program should be changed. The Attorneys General of Texas, Illinois and Ohio subsecquently joined the five original states to negotiate reform of the refund program. A second letter was sent on December 7 confirming the results of these negotiations.
"Not only were there too many hurdles to jump before a refund was possible but it excluded consumers who might have immediately destroyed the Vioxx either on doctors' orders or because they were worried about keeping an unsafe drug in their medicine cabinets," Myers explained.
The new refund program, now in effect, does the following:
Provides consumers with remaining Vioxx, pre-paid mailers in which to return what has not been used. Merck will arrange for a home pick-up to avoid the consumer having to take the mailer to a post office.
Allows consumers, who destroyed unused Vioxx under doctor's orders or otherwise, to certify in writing that they had unused product on September 30, 2004.
Extends the claim refund deadline from December 31, 2004 to March 31, 2005.
Through its sales staff, Merck will contact rheumatologists and primary care doctors with information about the modified refund program that the doctors can then distribute to patients that were taking Vioxx.
Merck will work with pharmacies to mail out updated refund notices to consumers who purchased Vioxx and who may be eligible for a product refund.
Directly contacts consumers whose refund claims were rejected by Merck under the earlier refund rules that required product return.
Makes a good faith effort to notify consumers about the refund program in future advertisements or print notices about Vioxx.
Consumers seeking refunds for unused Vioxx may contact the Merck Refund Center (National Notification Center) at 1-800-805-9542 or online at www.vioxx.com.
Attorney General Myers made it clear that the revised refund program is in no way related to the marketing and promotion of Vioxx. Myers also emphasized that consumers having any difficulty filing a claim with Merck under the new refund program should call his consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org