The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Shirley Boles (Boles v. Merck & Co., Inc., 06-cv-09455), who alleged she developed osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) after using Fosamax for nine years. Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a potentially serious condition in which the jawbone does not heal after minor surgery, resulting in death of the jawbone.
Boles' lawsuit was first heard in 2009, but ended in a mistrial after reports of severe disagreement among jurors. According to Reuters (9/11/09), there were claims that a chair was thrown in the jury room. The second lawsuit ended in 2010 with the jury giving Boles an award of $8 million. Bloomberg (10/04/10), notes the judge presiding over the case, US District Judge John F. Keenan, later reduced the award to $1.5 million, finding that the $8 million award was unreasonably high. He did, however, uphold the verdict in the lawsuit. At the time, the judge said Boles could choose to keep the reduced award or have a retrial to determine damages.
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Fosamax is in a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates. It has been linked to an increased risk of atypical femur fractures and lawsuits allege Fosamax is also linked to an increased risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw. Plaintiffs claim Merck misrepresented how safe Fosamax was and further failed to warn that the drug could impede the flow of blood to the jaw, causing ONJ.
Several bellwether lawsuits have gone to trial, with Merck, maker of Fosamax, winning all but one of the trials.