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Merck settles Vioxx suits from New York, Florida

(Reuters) - Merck & Co has reached settlements to resolve lawsuits from the states of New York, Florida and South Carolina alleging the company misled state regulators about the dangers of the painkiller Vioxx, according to court filings.

The confidential sums were revealed in a court filing Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, where thousands of Vioxx cases have been consolidated. In 2007, Merck had agreed to pay out $4.85 billion to resolve claims from thousands of plaintiffs who said Vioxx caused heart attacks.

A spokesman for Merck declined further comment on the settlements. They were revealed in a court filing from attorneys for the plaintiffs' steering committee in the multi-district Vioxx litigation, which asked the court to set aside 6.5 percent of the state settlements in an escrow fund to pay for plaintiffs' legal fees.

Attorney generals for the state of New York, Florida and South Carolina filed lawsuits against Merck in 2007 and 2008 alleging the company misled state regulators about the dangers associated with Vioxx, which has been linked in lawsuits to increasing users' risk of heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular side effects.

Similar settlements have already been reached in lawsuits from the states of Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the filing.

Spokespersons for the New York, South Carolina and Florida attorneys general offices did not immediately return requests for comment.

The case is In re: Vioxx Products Liability Litigation, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, no. 1657.

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