Patients who took Zometa, a medication prescribed to treat a type of cancer, are now reporting serious side effects from the drug and filing lawsuits against its manufacturer, Novartis. This drug, a bisphosphonate like Fosamax, is causing jawbone death in patients throughout the country. Fosamax lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail the similarity between these two drugs and their devastating side effects.
Zometa is prescribed to treat hypercalcemia along with complications from multiple myeloma and other cancers. The most recent plaintiff, Nancy Guenther, was part of the multi-district litigation (MDL-1760), which is located in the Middle District of Tennessee and also involves the bisphosphonate Aredia.
Guenther was fighting cancer when she was prescribed Zometa and claims she was never informed of the risk of bone death. Indeed, at the time she was prescribed, there was no indication on Zometa’s labels of this risk despite knowledge by Novartis that the drug could cause the jaw bone to die and deteriorate.
The judge in her case asserted that Novartis knew or reasonably should have known about the association between Zometa and jawbone death. Zometa was approved in 2001, and around 2004 reports started flooding in to the FDA concerning serious side effects from the drug.
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Bisphosphonates – which include Zometa, Fosamax, Reclast, Boniva, and more – are commonly used to treat and prevent osteoporosis and other bone density issues. In an ironic twist of fate, these drugs that are supposed to make bones stronger are actually causing extreme, often life-changing bone fractures in many patients, most notably in those who take them for longer than one year. The drugs are also associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, esophageal cancer, and kidney impairment.
The FDA first started warning of these issues back in 2010 (the initial Safety Communication can be found here). Even before that, as early as 2007, the agency was aware of and investigating the risk of atrial fibrillation in bisphosphonate patients.
The atypical bone fractures that result from bisphosphonate use occur in the femur bone just below the hip joint. The femur is the largest, strongest bone in the body, which is what makes these injuries so severe and disconcerting. Atypical femur fractures account for less than 1% of all hip and femur fractures in the general population, however, an inordinate amount of patients taking bisphosphonates suffer the injury. You do the math. Notably, the FDA specifically asserted in its 2010 Safety Communication that the femur fracture warning did not apply to Zometa.
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This is not to say that Zometa is without its own risks, evidenced by several multi-million dollar payouts to patients injured by the drug. Bloomberg recently reported on a $10.45 million verdict in favor of a Zometa patient, who suffered bone jaw death from the drug. This was the second-largest among similar cases concerning the drug; the first was for $12.8 million, awarded to a woman in North Carolina in 2010.
During that trial, Novartis emails were presented to the court dating back to May 2003, detailing reports linking Zometa to damaging jawbone conditions. That same month, Novartis employees devised strategies to remedy the situation, including drafting public relations materials. In fact, the emails explicitly stated that Novartis would “try to avoid that the paper is ever published.”
Novartis and other manufacturers of bisphosphonates are facing growing litigation from patients seriously injured by the drugs. Our team of Fosamax attorneys is currently investigating cases of atypical femur fractures, however, our case reviews are available to anyone with bisphosphonate questions, free of charge. If you or someone you love was hospitalized from a bisphosphonate or any other dangerous drug, contact our firm today.