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Shezad Malik MD JD
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Merck Loses Latest Fosamax Osteonecrosis Jaw Trial

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As a Dallas Fosamax long bone fracture and Osteonecrosis Jaw attorney, I am providing this timely update for folks who may have suffered injuries from the use of Fosamax. Merck lost the latest Fosamax Osteonecrosis Jaw trial on Tuesday in the ongoing litigation over its osteoporosis drug Fosamax. A federal jury in Manhattan, awarded $285,000 as damges to Rhoda E. Scheinberg, a 69-year-old New York woman who alleged that she suffered severe jaw problems from using Fosamax.

After a three-week trial, the jury found in Merck’s favor on a claim regarding the design of the drug, but found in Ms. Scheinberg’s favor regarding an alleged failure to properly warn of the drug’s dangers.

Merck has won in 5 out of 7 early selection or bellwether cases to go to trial in state and federal courts in the mass-tort litigation. An eighth case was dismissed prior to trial. One plaintiff''s case resulted in an $8 million verdict and is currently on appeal. In mass torts litigation, bellwether trials allow both sides to gauge the relative strength and weakness of their cases and often a successful outcome can pave the way to a global settlement. If no settlement is reached, the cases are then remanded to their home state for individual trials.

More than 4,000 cases have been filed against the company over fosamax, with the plaintiffs alleging that use of Fosamax can cause a jaw-destroying condition known as osteonecrosis and that Merck failed to properly warn of the risk. For the past six years, all product liability lawsuits filed against Merck that involve allegations of a jaw injury from Fosamax side effects have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, before U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan in the Southern District of New York.

Over a 1,000 Fosamax lawsuits have been filed in the federal MDL, including allegations that former users developed osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), osteomyellitis and other jaw-bone injuries that they claim were caused by the long-term use of Fosamax.

What is Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ)?

Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is a rare condition in which the jaw bone decays, resulting in exposed bone within the mouth, infection and possibly the need for surgery to remove portions of the jaw. 40% of the complaints have involved allegations of ONJ or osteomyellitis, a number of lawsuits involve other jaw-related injuries allegedly caused by Fosamax, such as sore and swollen gums, lost and broken teeth, and jaw pain.

What is Fosamax?

Fosamax (alendronate sodium), is a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates, which are prescribed for treatment of osteoporosis. Fosamax was approved by FDA in October 1995, the drug generated over $3 billion in annual sales for Merck before it became available as a generic last year.

Fosamax Long Bone Fractures

Merck also faces an even greater number of Fosamax lawsuits over atypical femur fractures, or thigh bone fractures, which occur with little or no trauma at all. In the federal court system, those cases are consolidated as part of a different MDL, which is centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.