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As the number of Vioxx-related cases mounts, Merck is discovering that some of its insurers don’t want to pay for the company’s defense against the lawsuits. Merck says it will fight the insurers’ efforts to reduce or eliminate coverage. Merck disclosed the insurance battle Friday after markets had closed. It didn’t identify the insurance carriers or discuss how much coverage is at stake, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As the number of Vioxx-related cases mounts, Merck (MRK:NYSE – commentary – research) is discovering that some of its insurers don’t want to pay for the company’s defense against the lawsuits. Merck says it will fight the insurers’ efforts to reduce or eliminate coverage.

Merck disclosed the insurance battle Friday after markets had closed. It didn’t identify the insurance carriers or discuss how much coverage is at stake, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Merck said the insurers initiated an arbitration proceeding to cancel certain policies “and to void all of their obligations under those policies with respect to the Vioxx lawsuits.” The carriers also want to “void their coverage obligations with respect to certain other types of losses covered by those policies,” the SEC filing said.

Merck said the insurers also may seek other ways to reduce their coverage, including “the application of exclusions, the definition of loss, compliance with policy conditions … coverage limits, and satisfactory proof of loss.”

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