June 17, 2008 12:00 AM

Today, Jenny Willott MP met with a group of cross party MPs, lawyers and individuals who suffered heart attacks or strokes after taking Vioxx - a pain relieving drug produced by the US pharmaceutical company 'Merck'.

Evidence has come to light in recent years showing that Merck was aware of the dangers of Vioxx long before it took the drug off the market. Hundreds of British citizens took their case to court in the US but judges threw out their claims on the grounds that they were foreign nationals.

However, the UK's less 'consumer-friendly' legal system would leave UK Vioxx victims financially vulnerable if they tried to take Merck to court in the UK. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of US claimants have agreed a £2.5bn out of court settlement with Merck. Payouts begin at the end of this month.

Commenting after the meeting, Jenny said:

"It is quite clear that Merck is playing the system. While they were forced to settle out of court in the US, they know full well that the British legal system makes it financially prohibitive for UK Vioxx victims to force the same situation.

"Our efforts must be focused on the Government to put pressure on Merck to offer a fair settlement or to wave legal costs so that people who have suffered from taking Vioxx are able to take Merck to court.

"Every year, the NHS spends nearly £400m on Merck products. The Government should use this considerable leverage over the company to secure justice for the hundreds of Vioxx victims."

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