Wyoming received more than $624,000 to reimburse Wyoming Medicaid in a national settlement with pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (Merck) regarding their drug Vioxx, Attorney General Greg Phillips announced today.

The settlement resolves allegations that Merck marketed Vioxx as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis without federal approval and made false settlements about the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx to increase sales.  Merck will pay the states and the federal government a total of $615 million in civil damages and penalties to compensate Medicaid, Medicare and other federal healthcare programs for harm suffered as a result of their conduct.  Wyoming received $624,701.70 to reimburse Wyoming Medicaid for the detriment it suffered by Merck’s actions.

The drug was taken off the market in September 2004 after evidence showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke.

In addition, Merck has agreed to plead guilty to a violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and will pay a criminal fine and forfeiture of more than $300 million.  The criminal component of the resolution centers on the illegal marketing and promotion of Vioxx for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Vioxx (generic name rofecoxib) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that was approved by the FDA in 1999 for the treatment of osteoarthritis, acute pain conditions and dysmenorrhea.  An investigation initiated by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts focused on allegations that Merck marketed Vioxx for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis before the FDA approved the drug for that usage, and that Merck promoted the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx by means of certain statements and writings that were inaccurate, misleading and inconsistent.  These allegations form the basis of the civil and criminal resolutions being announced today.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Christine Stickley, Director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, handled this matter for Wyoming.

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit for the State of Wyoming is charged with investigating and prosecuting financial fraud and other crimes committed by Wyoming Medicaid providers or their employees, and investigating and prosecuting abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly and dependent persons that occurs in Medicaid funded health care facilities or by health care providers.  Anyone wishing to report suspicions regarding any of these concerns may contact the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in Cheyenne (307) 777-3444 or (800) 378-0345.  Medicaid fraud information can also be found on the Attorney General’s web site: http://attorneygeneral.state.wy.us