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Fosamax: Merck Wins Lawsuit but Judge Orders More Trials

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New York, NYWhen it comes to determining Fosamax side effects, the court seems to be split on whether or not Fosamax causes serious side effects such as osteonecrosis of the jaw. Although the latest Fosamax osteonecrosis of the jaw lawsuit has ended in favor of Merck, a judge has now requested more bellwether trials to be carried out this year.

The most recent Fosamax lawsuit was filed by a woman who reportedly used Fosamax from 1999 through 2006 and developed jawbone problems after dental surgery. The plaintiff alleged Merck failed to adequately warn patients about the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw.

Merck defended Fosamax, saying the plaintiff's dental problems and use of other medications contributed to her jawbone death. The company further argued that the plaintiff did not meet the definition of osteonecrosis of the jaw and, therefore, did not have the condition.

The jury agreed with Merck, finding that the plaintiff did not have osteonecrosis of the jaw. According to The Wall Street Journal (02/14/11), the plaintiff plans to appeal the jury's verdict.

This most recent Merck victory was the first Fosamax lawsuit to be heard in state court. The previous three cases were heard in federal court. Of those three previous Fosamax lawsuits, the plaintiff won one and Merck won two. In one case, a jury awarded the plaintiff $8 million, although that amount was reduced to $1.5 million. Merck is appealing that verdict. There are approximately 1,200 cases included in Fosamax product-liability litigation.

Despite the jury's verdict, however, some studies have linked Fosamax and other oral bisphosphonate drugs to osteonecrosis of the jaw. In those cases, researchers said the risk is relatively rare.

The Wall Street Journal article notes that Merck won more Vioxx lawsuits than it lost before it agreed to settle a majority of Vioxx lawsuits for around $5 million.

Meanwhile, the federal judge who is responsible for Fosamax lawsuits has ordered two more bellwether trials to be heard this year. That means that there are still four bellwether cases to be heard. One case is scheduled for March with another in May. It is not known when the final two will be heard. The judge has ordered that one bellwether case should involve a plaintiff who took Fosamax before the drug's label was updated in July 2005, and the other should involve a person who was injured after Fosamax's label was changed.

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