To paraphrase -- a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about a settlement. My sources confirm that Merck had been spending about $1 billion a year on Vioxx litigation -- and, with no end in sight, $4.85 billion to make it go away is the smart fiduciary play.
That being said, it must stick in the craw of the folks at Merck to pony up this kind of do-re-mi for having done nothing wrong -- money that could (and should) have been spent on R&D.
If anything positive can come out of this travesty it's this -- Merck stood up for what it thought was right, won more than they lost -- and showed the trial bar, pundits, and pols that they weren't going to be doormats for cheap shots and SiCKO soundbites.
And that's a valuable lesson for the rest of the Big Pharma brethren.