February 10, 2014 — Merck & Co. has offered 3,800 women about $100 million in compensation to settle NuvaRing lawsuits involving blood clot injuries.
In a highly unusual move, Merck has asked plaintiffs to commit to the agreement before being told how much each person would receive in compensation. The proposal requires at least 95% approval.
If the proposal is not approved, Merck can back out of the agreement and continue to litigate. The cases have been dragging on for years in federal court as lawyers have repeatedly pushed back trial dates. Lawyers may decide to select individual cases for “bellwether” trials before a judge and jury. The jury’s decisions can potentially expedite a settlement by placing valuation on certain types of injuries.
All of the lawsuits allege that Merck failed to properly warn that NuvaRing could increase a woman’s risk of blood clots. Merck has already been ordered to place the following warning on the label for NuvaRing:
“The risk of getting blood clots may be greater with the type of progestin in NuvaRing than with some other progestins in certain low-dose birth control pills.”
What is the problem with NuvaRing?
NuvaRing is an O-shaped hormonal contraceptive ring that a woman inserts directly in the vagina. For three weeks, it releases hormones that significantly reduce the chances of a sperm fertilizing an egg.
Unfortunately, the progestin in NuvaRing, etonogestrel, has been associated with a doubled risk of blood clots compared to levonorgestrel. Women on NuvaRing are also six times more likely to develop blood clots than women who do not use birth control, according to a study published in 2012 by the British Medical Journal.