First Fosamax Lawsuits go to Trial

Fosamax lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm announce that the first lawsuits stemming from Fosamax femur fractures have begun. Plaintiffs are alleging that Merck & Co. concealed and disregarded the safety risks associated with the popular osteoporosis drug.

This lawsuit is the first femur Fosamax case to make it to trial, and is expected to last about four weeks. The plaintiff, Christina Su, 67, alleges that her use of Fosamax directly caused her femur to fracture in 2009, six years after she was first prescribed to the medication.

The main ingredient in Fosamax is bisphosphonate, often prescribed to women with osteoporosis and those suffering from cancer, to strengthen brittle bones. The FDA also repeatedly approved the drug as a supplement for otherwise healthy women who were concerned about bone-density loss. Instead of strengthening the bones, however, research released in 2010 found that Fosamax and other bisphosphonates were actually associated with an increased risk of thigh-bone fractures.

In these studies, which were published in theJournal of Bone and Mineral Research, as many as 94% out of 310 patients experienced an abnormal thigh bone fracture while taking a bisphosphonate-based medication. Most of those affected were prescribed to the drug for five years or more.

Plaintiffs are alleging that Merck officials ignored studies of this type, which proved Fosamax use put patients at risk for femur fractures, for 15 years to protect its sales. The FDA approved the drug for sale in 1995, and has since generated sales of about $3 billion a year until its patent expired in 2008. The manufacturer is currently facing more than 2,000 lawsuits in state court in New Jersey centering on these femur fracture complaints. An additional 850 cases are consolidated in federal court in New York, and 420 in state court in California.

Another slew of lawsuits over Fosamax are alleging that Merck failed to warn about the risk of bone jaw degeneration, or “dead jaw.” The most recent of these trials took place in Manhattan, the plaintiff argued that Merck sold her a defective product and failed to adequately warn her about the risks. The jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff $280,000 for her injuries, which included the development of a bone disease and delayed healing.

Nearly 1,000 other Fosamax patients are suing Merck over this bone condition, called osteonecrosis, which develops when the jaw is unable to heal after minor surgeries, ultimately causing the jaw bone tissue to die, referred to as jaw necrosis. Every year, about 1 in every 1,000 Fosamax patients will develop the condition. The first ostenecrosis trial took place in 2010, and the plaintiff was awarded $8 million by a jury, which a judge later reduced to $1.5 million.

In 2006, Merck officials based in Singapore sent an e-mail to the company’s executives detailing reports of Fosamax patients suffering from brittle bones. It was not until two years later, however, when the drug’s patent was up and generics were allowed onto markets, that Merck took any consideration of these reports.

In addition to this, a few years later, the FDA set a letter to Merck requesting the company make extensive changes to its warning labels, citing a 2010 report by the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. This study found that the risks of bone fracture significantly increased the longer patients were exposed to bisphosphonates. In response, the FDA requested Merck include that patients should be re-evaluated on a regular basis to determine if they needed to continue using the drug.

The agency also requested that Merck detail the extent of the increased risk of low-energy, atypical, low trauma fractures on its labels. Patients at risk of these types of fractures may experience dull, aching pain in the thigh or groin a few weeks or months before a fracture occurs.

The plaintiff in the ongoing trial now has a metal rod in her left femur to support the stress fractures caused by the defective medication. Fosamax lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge anyone who was seriously injured by Fosamax, or any other defective drug, to contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. You may be entitled to significant compensation for your pain and suffering, past and future medical bills, and lost wages.

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