Pharmaceutical powerhouse Merck (NYSE:MRK) has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed in Missouri by Vioxx customers, the company announced yesterday.

Those who filed the lawsuit had purchased Merck's prescription pain reliever Vioxx before it was pulled from the market in 2004 because of concerns about increased risk of heart attack and stroke, but claimed no physical injury. It was filed under the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act. Merck has agreed to pay "to resolve all validated claims submitted by class members," the company said, as well as pay attorneys' fees and administrative costs.

When it was filed in 2004, the class action sought $220 million in total damages for Missouri residents who had purchased Vioxx.

The issue has been previously disclosed by Merck, and a charge was booked in the third quarter of this year to account for the potential amount of the settlement. Merck's general counsel, Bruce Kuhlik, said in a company press release that the agreement is "in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. It reduces the uncertainty of litigation and ongoing defense costs."

The agreement has to be approved by the court before it is final.

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