Vioxx drug ban hits Merck profits

Profits at US pharmaceutical giant Merck fell 21%, after the firm was forced to withdraw its Vioxx painkiller last year.

Sales of the drug were halted amid safety fears on 30 September, causing a dip in fourth-quarter profits to $1.1bn (£0.59bn), from $1.4bn a year ago.

The firm also added $604m pre-tax to its reserves for Vioxx litigation.

Better-than-expected sales of other key drugs led sales to rise 2.2% to $5.75bn, it announced late on Tuesday.

The firm has not yet established reserves to cover the cost of settling lawsuits from people who claim they have been harmed by using Vioxx.

The drug has been linked with an increased risk of serious heart problems and the company was aware of 575 lawsuits from 1,400 plaintiffs by the end of last year.

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