Fosamax (alendronate) is a prescription medication commonly prescribed to those with osteoporosis. However, serious side effects from the drug have come to light, prompting many patients to file a Fosamax lawsuit against Merck, the drug manufacturer. Litigation efforts against Merck have included both state and federal lawsuits, the latter of which were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation (MDL), a type of mass litigation.
Veteran product liability lawyers
The legal team at The Sanders Firm has more than 45 years of experience in litigating cases involving dangerous drugs such as Fosamax. In fact, our product liability lawyers were the first to file a lawsuit against Merck with regard to Fosamax. Our client is a 77-year-old man who had been taking Fosamax and was subsequently diagnosed with a severe jaw injury, called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). On behalf of our client, we filed his lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey.
It isn’t too late to file additional lawsuits against Merck. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries after taking Fosamax, including jaw injuries and bone fractures, our pharmaceutical litigation firm can review your case to determine if you are eligible for compensatory damages.
Fosamax was first approved for sale in the U.S. in 1995 to treat osteoporosis, a condition in which the bone mass has declined, putting a patient at risk of bone fractures. Fosamax went on to become a blockbuster medication, with more than $3 billion in annual sales up to 2008, when its patent protection lapsed. Prior to drugs such as Fosamax entering the market, the only choice for patients facing osteoporosis was hormonal medications, along with lifestyle changes such as weight-bearing exercise, and supplementation with calcium and vitamin D.
That changed when Jeremy Allen, an executive at Merck, convinced the company to create a nonprofit organization called the Bone Measurement Institute. Allen was the organization’s sole employee and his job was to place more bone density scanners in clinics and hospitals across the U.S., with the end goal of convincing more women that they needed to be tested for osteoporosis and subsequently treated with medications like Fosamax.
Merck also developed and released a new version of Fosamax intended for patients with osteopenia, a precursor to osteoporosis that had not previously been treated with medication. This unique marketing campaign worked well. In 1994, Medicare claims for osteoporosis screening tests totaled 77,000. By 1999, that number shot up to over 1.5 million.
However, medical studies regarding Fosamax reveal that doctors may have been overprescribing the medication, which is a type of bisphosphonate. Studies in women who were diagnosed with osteopenia reveal that although the drug may reduce incidences of spinal fractures, it may not reduce the numbers of other types of fractures, which are more common than spinal fractures.
Susan Ott, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington, noted that if the numbers of common types of fractures doesn’t decline, the risks of the drug may outweigh the potential benefits. Furthermore, experts have noted that there are no long-term safety studies regarding women who began using Fosamax at an earlier age and continued using it on a long-term basis.
Short-term safety studies indicate that while the drug may help for the first few years of use, it can actually increase the risk of fractures later. In 2008, researchers in Singapore evaluated 17 postmenopausal women who had used Fosamax for an average of five years. Thirteen of them experienced leg pain and all of them subsequently suffered from a thighbone fracture.
Common Fosamax side effects
Fosamax has been linked to multiple side effects.
Some of the common Fosamax side effects that are generally considered mild include:
- Eye pain
- Joint pain and swelling
- Heartburn and bloating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Diarrhea or constipation
Other side effects are quite severe and have led to permanent physical injuries.
Some of the patients who have filed a lawsuit after using Fosamax have reported the following side effects:
- Chest pain
- Painful swallowing
- Coughing up blood
- Severe or burning pain
- Jaw pain, numbness, and swelling
Spontaneous bone fractures have been linked to the use of Fosamax. A 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that of the thousands of study participants, 1.0 percent suffered hip fractures, whereas of those taking a placebo, 2.2 percent experienced hip fractures. According to the AARP, “Because 1.0 percent is 44 percent of 2.2 percent, Merck is allowed to say that its drug reduces bone fractures by 56 percent.” However, the AARP goes on to note that the same study reveals the relative risk of hip fractures among users of Fosamax actually increased by 84 percent. Fractures in other areas, such as the thighbone, have also been noted.
Furthermore, Fosamax has been linked to a risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), which occurs when the drug deteriorates bone mass, rather than strengthening it.
Jawbone death causes swelling, infection, pain, and even exposed bone. Patients have suffered serious jawbone loss, and subsequently required tooth extractions when the jawbone could no longer support their teeth. Patients with jawbone loss are usually not candidates for dental implants because there is insufficient bone mass for support. Instead, they’ll require extensive bone grafting surgeries.
Plaintiffs demand compensatory damages
Despite these serious, permanent injuries, there has yet to be a recall of Fosamax, either FDA-issued or issued by Merck. However, that hasn’t stopped thousands of patients from filing lawsuits against Merck after using Fosamax. The lawyers at The Sanders Firm can help plaintiffs recover compensation for their lost wages, physical disabilities, medical expenses, ongoing medical needs, pain and suffering, and more.
Compensation may be obtained via a jury award or settlement. When evaluating the potential for compensation with a jury award or settlement, many factors are considered. For example, the parties involved consider the length of time Fosamax was used, the type of complications the patient experienced, the extent to which the complications inflicted economic and non-economic losses, and the patient’s prognosis.
Many Fosamax lawsuits consolidated
There have been more than 3,300 lawsuits filed against Merck that claim that Fosamax resulted in femur deterioration, and an additional 1,230 complaints link the drug to jawbone necrosis. Thousands of federal lawsuits have been centralized into MDL No. 1789, which is proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The MDL is currently in the midst of hearing the bellwether cases, or the initial trials. Some cases have already been resolved, including that of a woman who suffered jawbone injuries and is anticipating a $285,000 jury award.
Let The Sanders Firm help
The Sanders Firm is proud to serve residents of New York City and the surrounding areas, including Long Island. We understand the devastating toll that medical problems such as jawbone necrosis and tooth loss can take on your day-to-day life. Let us help you hold the drug manufacturer liable for your medical expenses, other economic losses, and pain and suffering. We’ll work closely with you to understand your unique case and specific complaints, and we can file a lawsuit on your behalf to pursue compensation.
You can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our dedicated personal injury lawyers, during which we’ll discuss your legal rights and options. Call us toll-free today at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY.
- Harvard Medical School, What's the story with Fosamax? http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2008/November/Whats_the_story_with_Fosamax
- Drugs.com, Fosamax, http://www.drugs.com/fosamax.html
- NPR, How A Bone Disease Grew To Fit The Prescription, http://www.npr.org/2009/12/21/121609815/how-a-bone-disease-grew-to-fit-the-prescription
- Bloomberg, Merck Starts Fresh Trial on Fosamax Broken-Leg Claims, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-08/merck-starts-fresh-trial-on-fosamax-broken-leg-claims.html
- AARP, Should I Keep Taking Fosamax for My Osteoporosis? http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-10-2012/fosamax-for-osteoporosis.html