Many lawsuits have been filed against Merck, the manufacturers of Zocor, due to the desvistating side effects of the drug. To date, there have been no jury verdicts reported. Let’s take a quick look at the allegations made in the pending lawsuits, and check on their progress.

Zocor is classified as a “statin” drug, a class of drugs designed to lower blood cholesterol levels.  Patients suffering from high cholesterol levels have suffered severe damage by intake of a medication that was believed to lower the level of LDL in blood. This damage was more frequent in patients who were prescribed the 80 mg dose of Zocor and also where people were already on other medications that showed severe interactions and caused many health complications.

One of the cases alleged that Zocor is not just responsible for triggering muscle damage, but may also cause interstitial lung disease (“ILD”) as an unintended reaction. This case was published in the October 10, 2010 edition of the Canadian Adverse Reaction Newsletter (“CARN”), in an article entitled “Statins and ILD/Interstitial Lung Disease.”

After this reported adverse reaction, Merck filed an application to add ILD as a potential adverse reaction on the Zocor labels.  The FDA approved this application from Merck in November 2010, just a month after the CARN report was originally published. However, earlier publications, including one published in August 2008 in the medical journal Chest, had also indicated the potential for ILD as a side effect, but this earlier report apparently went unnoticed and prompted no action by Merck.

Doctors, scientists, and even lawyers involved in the Zocor litigation are continuously monitoring the safety issues for Zocor.  If you (or someone you care for) has experienced ILD or other side effects of Zocor, you can submit a MedWatch report using the FDA’s Form 3500.  The MedWatch report will be directly forwarded to the appropriate personnel at the FDA, who will take prompt action.

Zocor achieved widespread usage and acceptance among consumers due, at least in part to its low cost. Because of this widespread usage, it is expected that there will be many instances where Zocor caused muscle damage.  There will be many users who do not experience muscle damage, but even those users should be watching for other side effects that ma be attributable to the drug.

Zocor should be prescribed only by healthcare experts who are completely aware about the drug, its interactions, its side effects, and its benefits.  Regardless of the circumstances under which Zocor was initially prescribed, some experts have advised users to undergo liver tests after three months of administration, followed by additional tests at regular intervals.

Another study that is expected to affect the Zocor litigation was published by SEARCH (Study of the Effectiveness of Additional Reductions in Cholesterol and Homocysteine). Published in March 2010, this study followed its subjects for 7 years, with a focus on patients who were initially prescribed Zocor in the higher 80 mg dosage.  The study analyzed data obtained through the Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS), and concluded that lowering the dose of this medication would also lower the prevalence of muscle damage or other serious complications.

While all patients who were prescribed a high dose of Zocor were at risk of developing muscle damage, females and older people carried an even higher risk. Also, people who were on a calcium blocking channel had double the risk.

Even though many lawsuits have been filed against Merck as a result of this drug, Zocor is still available in the United States as a prescription medication.  Zocor that is still currently available should be in packaging containing the FDA’s revised warning, which more fully discloses the side effects and complications of the drug.  Exactly how many Zocor lawsuits will ultimately be filed depends, in part, on whether the new warning is effective in convincing healthcare professionals to consider dosages lower than the 80 mg dose whenever it is medically advisable.