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Boehringer to settle lawsuits against blockbuster drug for $650 million

(Reuters) - German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim said on Wednesday it would pay about $650 million to settle U.S. lawsuits that claimed the company's blockbuster blood thinner, Pradaxa, had caused severe and fatal bleeding in patients.

Boehringer said it expected to resolve about 4,000 claims with the settlement. The claimants had accused the company of not issuing sufficient warnings of the risks associated with Pradaxa.

While Boehringer denied liability, it said the deal would allow it to avoid the distraction and uncertainty of a lengthy litigation process.

"BI stands resolutely behind Pradaxa and believed from the outset that the plaintiffs' claims lacked merit," said Desiree Ralls-Morrison, senior vice president and general counsel, Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corp.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Mikal Watts, said he was hopeful that claimants would receive compensation within a year as lawyers move to implement the settlement. The amount each individual receives will vary depending on the severity and nature of the alleged injury, he added.

"I think it's a good settlement for a lot of people that need help," Watts said. "I congratulate the company on doing the right thing."

Pradaxa belongs to a promising new class of medicines designed to replace decades-old warfarin in preventing strokes in patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, a form of irregular heartbeat common among the elderly.

The drug, which competes with Bayer AG BAYGn.DE and Johnson & Johnson's JNJ.N Xarelto as well as Bristol Myers-Squibb Co BMY.N and Pfizer Inc's PFE.N Eliquis, had annual sales of about 1.2 billion euros ($1.63 billion) in 2013.

(Reporting by Esha Dey in Bangalore and Jessica Dye in New York; editing by Simon Jennings and Matthew Lewis)

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