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Despite Fosamax Lawsuit Losses, Settlement Talks Reportedly in the Works

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Newark, NJSettlement talks regarding Fosamax lawsuits are reportedly set to get underway, now that a settlement master has been appointed by a federal judge. Lawsuits concerning Fosamax side effects allege patients developed Fosamax osteonecrosis of the jaw, a potentially serious condition. Five bellwether trials have gone to court, with Merck winning all but one of those trials.

According to reports, John D. Feerick was appointed Special Settlement Master on November 22, to oversee talks between the two sides in the Fosamax lawsuits. The goal is for Feerick to facilitate a resolution in the federal lawsuits involving Fosamax. There are reportedly more than 900 Fosamax lawsuits filed in federal court with additional cases filed in various state courts. Lawsuits filed against Merck, maker of Fosamax, allege the company failed to warn patients about the risks associated with the medication.

Fosamax is an oral bisphosphonate, taken to strengthen the patient's bones. It has been associated with an increased risk of jawbone death when taken at high doses. Some patients have required surgery to remove all or part of their jawbone after developing osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).

Of the multiple Fosamax bellwether lawsuits that have gone to trial, Merck has won all but one. The one it lost first saw an award of $8 million in damages to the plaintiff, but a judge later ruled the verdict was excessive and reduced the award to $1.5 million. The plaintiff has reportedly elected to have another trial rather than accepting the $1.5 million. Despite those losses, settlement talks could result in money given to the plaintiffs. Merck may not want to face the expense of long lawsuits, especially since it now faces lawsuits concerning a link between Fosamax femur fractures.

Those lawsuits have been consolidated, although no bellwether trials have yet gone to court.

In July 2011, the FDA announced it was reviewing information about a possible link between the use of drugs similar to Fosamax and an increased risk of esophageal cancer. In two studies about bisphosphonates and esophageal cancer, one study found approximately double the risk of esophageal cancer linked to bisphosphonate use of more than three years while another study found no such link.

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