Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


OLYMPIA — Attorney General McKenna announced today that Washington state has joined with 42 other states and the federal government in reaching an agreement with Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (Merck) to settle civil and criminal allegations that Merck marketed Vioxx for unapproved uses.

“Attorneys in our Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, working with the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and their federal counterparts, have once again helped recover millions for Washington state,” McKenna said. “I appreciate their continued vigilance on behalf of taxpayers.”

As a result of the settlement, $1.2 million will go to the state’s Medicaid program and $2.3 million will be deposited in the general fund. The rest of the state’s share will be returned to the federal government to cover its share of Medicaid spending on Vioxx during the time in question. Payment amounts to states are based on how much was spent on the drug in each state during the time in question.

Vioxx is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that was approved by the FDA in 1999 for the treatment of osteoarthritis, acute pain and other conditions.  On September 30, 2004, Merck voluntarily withdrew Vioxx from the market worldwide, citing an increase in the incidence of heart problems in patients taking the drug.  Government attorneys allege that Merck marketed Vioxx for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis before the FDA approved the drug for that use, and that Merck promoted the cardiovascular safety of Vioxx with claims that were inaccurate, misleading and inconsistent. 

Attorneys at the Washington State Attorney General’s Office allege that because Merck made false representations about Vioxx, the state’s Medicaid program was misled into spending more on the drug than it would have otherwise, and that doctors wrote prescriptions they otherwise would not have written.

The Medicaid Fraud Control Unit recovered more than $27 million in the fiscal year that concluded in June.


Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725