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Merck & Co. (MRK) may pay $100 million to settle thousands of lawsuits over the safety of its NuvaRing contraceptive, a New Jersey judge held, as long as enough women agree to participate in the accord.

The settlement may resolve as many as 3,800 cases in federal and state courts in New Jersey and Missouri, Judge Brian Martinotti in Hackensack said yesterday at a hearing. More than 200 women sued Merck in New Jersey accusing the drugmaker of selling NuvaRing while knowing it posed a higher risk of heart attack-inducing blood clots than competing products.

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