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Fosamax Lawsuits FAQ

What is Fosamax?

Fosamax is the brand name for alendronate sodium. It is a bisphosphonate drug prescribed to treat osteoporosis in women after menopause, and to treat osteoporosis in men. It is also prescribed to advanced cancer and Paget's disease patients in order to help fight the thinning of bone common in those diseases. Fosamax is designed to prevent bone breakdown and increases bone density (thickness), which makes bones stronger and less likely to break.

What are Fosamax Side Effects?

Fosamax has been linked to very serious side effects such as Osteonecrosis of the Jaw, renal problems and more recently increased risk of bone fracture, particularly femur fractures. Many Fosamax patients have reported pain in bones, muscles or joints.

The most common side effect associated with Fosamax is abdominal pain while less common side effects include difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing; new or worsening heartburn; chest pain; upset stomach; vomiting; black, tarry, or bloody stools; mouth sores or pain in the mouth; itching; hives; swelling of eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat; hoarseness; eye pain; flu-like symptoms; fever; irritation or pain of the esophagus; and muscle pain. A rare side effect is skin rash, which could be severe and worsen with exposure to sunlight.

What is Osteonecrosis of the Jaw?

Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), also known as "dead jaw", is a disease in which bone tissue in the jaw does not heal after minor traumas such as tooth extraction or oral surgery. The USC School of Dentistry suggests that bisphosphonates—including Fosamax-- make it easier for bacteria to adhere to bone that is exposed after a tooth extraction or dental surgery, which leads to ONJ. Fosamax dead jaw is a painful and often disfiguring disorder without a cure.

I am on Fosamax and scheduled for dental surgery. Should I cancel my appointment?

People using Fosamax and other bisphosphonates should try to avoid tooth extractions and other major dental work while taking these medications. Consult with your dentist or oral surgeon, as well as the physician who prescribed Fosamax for you, prior to undergoing surgery. You should never stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first.

I took Fosamax about a year ago and at the same time I had some teeth extracted. Am I at risk for developing Fosamax Dead Jaw?

It depends because everyone's body reacts to drugs differently. It is important that you speak to your doctor about your condition and any potential side effects of your drug regimen.

Dental work does not usually bring on ONJ, but it can alert people to the disease.  For example, if you get a tooth removed by your dentist, the jaw usually begins to heal right away.  But the jaws of people with ONJ do not heal as fast as they should, and it is not uncommon for people with ONJ to still have wounds for several months after their procedures. A dentist can recognize the early signs of ONJ.

Some people who developed ONJ after dental surgery reported that their jaws felt heavy or numb soon afterward, while others aren't even aware of the condition until they have routine dental work that doesn't heal properly.  Anyone who takes Fosamax could potentially develop ONJ.

The highest risk factors for ONJ are:
  • taking bisphosphonates, especially in IV form
  • concurrent use of steroids
  • previous history of cancer, osteoporosis or Paget's disease
  • traumatic dental procedure, such as tooth extraction or dental implants.
What are the symptoms of ONJ Dead Jaw?

Symptoms of Fosamax dead jaw include irregular sore with exposed bone, pain or swelling in the infected jaw; infection, possibly with pus; and/or an altered sensation, such as numbness or a heavy sensation.

Can I get tested for ONJ Dead Jaw?

There isn't a specific test to directly show ONJ/Dead Jaw, but there are a number of tests that can indicate if you are at risk.  Blood tests for phosphate, magnesium, calcium, electrolytes, and hematocrit/hemoglobin should be performed every three to six months to ensure that ONJ does not develop.  Blood tests also monitor the potential renal side effects bisphosphonate drugs can cause.  Also, your doctor can perform bone density tests to ensure jaw and gum health.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become thin and weak and break easily. Osteoporosis may have natural causes or may be found in men and women who have taken corticosteroids.

Has there been any recent news about Fosamax?

In March 2010 ABC World News Tonight reported the risk of low-energy, non-traumatic femur fractures for patients who take Fosamax for extended periods of time. Dr. Robert Bunning, a rheumatologist at National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington DC, said that in all of the 50 to 60 reported cases, most patients had been taking Fosamax or another type of bisphosphonate for more than five years. recently interviewed a Fosamax user who fractured his femur after taking Fosamax for and his case was presented at a bone conference in 2009.

What can I do if I or my family member has ONJ Dead Jaw?

The first thing you should do is contact your doctor.  Catching ONJ in the early stages can help prevent further complications.  After you have secured your health, you need to talk to a Fosamax attorney.  You may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering, but statute of limitation laws restrict how much time you have to take action.  Contacting a lawyer sooner rather than later can help ensure that you do not suffer in vain. If you or a loved one have experienced any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions while taking Fosamax, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also wish to meet with an experienced attorney to discuss your options and to protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Fosamax use.

Why is there a Fosamax Lawsuit?

Since 2006, hundreds of Fosamax ONJ lawsuits against Merck & Co, the manufacturer of Fosamax, claim that rather than increasing bone density and strengthening bones, in some cases Fosamax has actually caused a deterioration of the jaw bone or contributed to femur fractures.

There are approximately 900 lawsuits currently pending against Merck & Co. Many Fosamax users have filed a lawsuit in federal court against Merck, alleging that the drug company knew about this dangerous and debilitating side effect yet failed to act to protect the innocent public. Plantiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks class action status, claim that Fosamax is a defective product because it can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw, or a rotting of the jaw bone. As well the suit alleges that Merck concealed and continues to hide Fosamax's potentially dangerous side effects from patients and doctors

How Can I Pursue a Fosamax Lawsuit?

An experienced lawyer will be able to determine whether or not you have a case. If you do have a case against Merck, you may be eligible for damages to offset medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and emotional distress.
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Last updated on Jun-7-10

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