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Kentucky Attorney General files suit against drug giant Merck

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway on Monday filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court against pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. alleging that the company misled consumers about the risks associated with its anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx.

Conway's suit says that he is seeking "injunctive relief, civil penalties, and other equitable relief."

The suit alleges that in May, 1999, Merck began an "aggressive and deceptive" campaign to promote Vioxx for the relief of conditions including osteoarthritis and menstrual pain but failed to mention the increased risk of cardiovascular complications, including heart attack and stroke.

"This kind of deception puts consumers at risk and will not be tolerated in Kentucky," Conway said in a news release.

In May, 2008, 29 states and the District of Columbia reached a $58 million settlement with Merck, the largest ever for a multi-state consumer protection drug case. Kentucky was not part of that lawsuit.

As part of that settlement, Merck agreed to stop "ghostwriting" positive articles and studies, refrain from using scientific data deceptively when marketing to doctors and submit all TV advertising campaigns to the federal Food & Drug Administration for review.

Vioxx was pulled from the market in 2004.