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June 7, 2012 — Merck & Co. is facing a class action lawsuit on behalf of people who were injured by side effects of Zocor (simvastin), a popular cholesterol-lowering statin drug.

The plaintiffs accuse Merck of failing to warn about the potential risk of rhabdomyolysis and degenerative muscle disease, which can lead to kidney failure or death. On June 1, 2012, plaintiff Irene Richardson filed the class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The class action lawsuit states: “The pharmaceutical drug, Zocor, is defective, dangerous to human health, unfit and unsuitable for be marketed and sold in commerce, and lacked proper warnings to the dangers associated with its use.”

One of the most serious side effects of Zocor is rhabdomyolysis. This disease causes muscles to rapidly degenerate. The damaged muscles release myoglobin into the bloodstream, which is toxic to the kidneys in high amounts. It can quickly cause severe kidney damage, kidney failure, or death. People who survive rhabdomyolysis often suffer fatigue and muscle pain for the rest of their lives.

The FDA has already issued warnings about the risk of rhabdomyolysis and degenerative muscle disease (myopathy). They have restricted sales of 80-mg Zocor and twice-a-day 40-mg Zocor, which is considered a high dose of the drug. The FDA has also warned that doctors should not put any new patients on high-doses of Zocor due to the risk of severe side effects.

Two other individual lawsuits were filed in federal court in Louisiana this week. The plaintiffs all have similar complaints against Merck — namely, that the company intentionally concealed risk information and failed to warn doctors and patients about Zocor side effects.

The plaintiffs in these Zocor lawsuits are seeking financial compensation for their injuries. They are also asking Merck to implement a surveillance system to monitor current Zocor patients for muscle problems, so the side effect can be identified more quickly. This system could help prevent future cases of Zocor-induced rhabdomyolysis and muscle disease.

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