Merck & Co says that some of its insurers are seeking to invalidate their obligations relating to litigation concerning the company’s withdrawn painkiller, Vioxx (rofecoxib) [[01/10/04a]].

In a filing made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission last week, Merck said that the upper level excess insurers, which provide the excess insurance potentially applicable to all of the lawsuits concerning the company’s withdrawn painkiller, Vioxx (rofecoxib) [[01/10/04a]], have begun an arbitration seeking, among other things, to cancel those policies and to void all of their obligations under those policies with respect to the Vioxx lawsuits.

Merck, which notes that it has product liability insurance for claims of up to around $630 million dollars, and coverage of at least $190 million for lawsuits concerning the actions of its directors and officers, says it intends to “contest vigorously” the insurers’ claims, and will attempt to enforce its rights under applicable insurance policies. However, it warned that the amounts it actually recovers under the policies in question may be less than these amounts.

Merck also revealed in the filing that as of the end of January, it had been named in 850 lawsuits, including approximately 2,425 plaintiff groups alleging personal injuries resulting from the use of Vioxx.