Earlier this month, pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. offered to settle thousands of pending lawsuits surrounding its contraceptive device NuvaRing. Since 2008, more than 3,800 cases have been brought against the company from NuvaRing users subjected to stroke-causing blood clots without sufficient warning.
The price for resolving these complaints? $100 million.
‘For Me, It’s Easy’
NuvaRing is by now a household name. Initially, it achieved that status through heavy, highly polished marketing on TV and online, with persuasive taglines such as “For me, it’s easy.”
Touted as a convenient method of birth control, the flexible plastic released a low dose of progestin and estrogen, meant to prevent ovulation and inhibit sperm penetration. But in 2008, the contraceptive proved to have much less desirable effects. In March of that year, Robert Bozicev launched a lawsuit against Merck after his wife died of a massive blood clot in her lung, known as pulmonary embolism.
From that moment on, NuvaRing was a household name for a whole new set of reasons.
Not Their First Rodeo
Only a year before this, in 2007, Merck faced a similar predicament regarding its pain medication Vioxx. At the time, the Vioxx trial was one of the largest civil litigations ever in the U.S. It followed nearly 20 trials in state courts from New Jersey to California.
After losing the first case, Merck went on to win those that followed. However, the costs of litigation bled the company of more $600 million annually, leading the company to settle to the tune of $4.85 billion. Nearly 50,000 claimants were awarded an average of just over $100,000 each.
Despite this staggering number, most analysts were surprised by how easily Merck got off. But Merck’s aggressive defense team was able to weaken the cases of many plaintiffs, showing that the heart attacks suffered by victims of the drug could just as easily have been due to preexisting conditions or poor health choices, such as smoking.
‘A Fair Resolution’
In the case of NuvaRing, Merck is once again getting off much more lightly than some analysts expected. The charges against NuvaRing — that the type of progestin used in the contraceptive is twice as likely to cause harmful blood clots, and that Merck did not provide sufficient consumer warning against the product’s flaws — have proven very difficult to prove in court. Compared to the case against Yaz, another notoriously flawed contraceptive that paid out a $1.6 billion settlement, Merck’s $100 million settlement looks pretty lightweight.
The offer is on the table, awaiting the decision of 3,800 eligible patients involved in lawsuits on whether to take the settlement or pursue the case. At least 95% of them must accept the offer for it to take effect.
Despite exhaustive coverage from Vanity Fair to Mother Jones on the device’s dangers and Merck’s legal maneuvers, NuvaRing remains on the market, used by approximately 1.5 million women around the world.
A Good Defense Needs a Better Offense
If you or someone you love needs answers about a case like the one against Merck, don’t wait. Call the legal team at Oshman & Mirisola. Our team has experience with pharmaceutical cases like yours. We can help you understand your rights and offer you the resources you need to recover. Contact us today at (800) 400-8182, or fill out the contact form on the right side of this page.