A company spokesman said Merck recorded a charge of $950 million to resolve the long-standing investigation in October 2010.
“The government recognized Merck's full cooperation with its investigation and by putting this long-standing investigation to rest, we can more fully focus on discovering, developing and providing innovative medicines and vaccines that save and improve lives around the world,” spokesman Ronald Rogers said.
Thursday's sentencing related specifically to Merck's admission that it had marketed Vioxx as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis between 1999 and 2001, even though the Food and Drug Administration did not approve the drug for that use until 2002.
Merck withdrew the drug from the market in 2004. Reuters has reported that Vioxx had produced $2.5 billion in annual revenue for the company before the drug was withdrawn.
In November, Merck also agreed to a $628.4 billion civil settlement to resolve broader allegations that the company made inaccurate, unsupported or misleading statements to the federal government and state Medicaid agencies about the overall cardiovascular safety of Vioxx in order to increase sales. The settlement also called for Merck to enter what the Justice Department called an “expansive” corporate integrity agreement with the HHS' inspector general's office.
When the civil settlement was announced, Merck said the agreement did not constitute any admission of liability or wrongdoing by the company. The settlement resolved litigation with the federal government, 43 states and the District of Columbia.