February 11, 2014 — Merck on Friday agreed to a $100 million settlement to resolve lawsuits alleging that the company downplayed serious health risks involving its NuvaRing contraceptive device, the Wall Street Journal reports. The device is a combined hormonal contraceptive vaginal ring (Loftus, Wall Street Journal, 2/7).
The settlement would resolve as many as 3,800 cases in federal and state courts in New Jersey and Missouri (Feeley/Voreacos, Bloomberg, 2/8). The plaintiffs allege that the label for NuvaRing, which has been available since 2001, failed to fully or accurately describe an increased risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks, strokes or sudden death (Pierson, Reuters, 2/7).
Merck denied any fault under the settlement, which would apply to cases involving deep-vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms and death as a result of blood clots. Shelly Leonard, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, on Friday said the settlement is arranged so that women with the most-severe injuries can qualify for larger payments (Bloomberg, 2/8).
At least 95% of the eligible claimants have to agree to the settlement for it to take effect, according to Merck (Wall Street Journal, 2/7).
Merck spokesperson Lainie Keller said the company believes NuvaRing is a safe contraceptive and will continue to "monitor the safety of the medicine" (Bloomberg, 2/8).