‘Jawbone Death’: Merck Osteoporosis Drug Fosamax Blamed
A civil trial is happening in Manhattan over Fosamax, a drug used by women with thinning bones. Judith Graves, 67, has sued drug giant Merck, claiming its drug Fosamax caused "debilitating jawbone deterioration," which required Graves to have five major operations, one of which required her to replace her jaw with bone from her arm.
Merck, manufacturer of Fosamax, contends that Fosamax is not the cause of Graves' medical issues. The pharmaceutical company is no stranger to lawsuits. Merck argues that Graves' other prescriptions are the culprit. Graves was taking steroids for rheumatoid arthritis, among other prescriptions. Merck says the prescriptions weakened her body and caused a jaw infection and prevented her from healing properly. They dispute the claims made in the so-called "Jawbone Death" cases.
Merck is facing lawsuits from 1,400 people who claim that Fosamax caused them to develop serious jawbone problems. According to The New York Times, Merck won an earlier case, but in another, the jury awarded a plaintiff $8 million, which a judge reduced to $1.5 million. Both sides are appealing that case.
The Food and Drug Administration has recently been taking a closer look at Fosamax, which it first approved in the 1990's. While they have not established a clear link between Fosamax and jawbone death, they are concerned that they could be related.
The drugs are designed to counter the loss of bone mass that accelerates in women after menopause.
Dr. Margaret Seton, a rheumatologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said that before drugs like Fosamax, doctors were virtually helpless to try to counteract the bone mass deterioration. “When you have no drug and you’ve seen a patient and watched their spine crumble, that’s heartbreaking.”
However as the lawsuits against Merck continue to mount, juries and researchers are left to answer the question as to whether Fosamax is doing more harm than good.
- High Stakes for Merck in Litigation on Fosamax (The New York Times)
- Merck to Begin Vioxx Payments in August (FindLaw's Common Law)
- Supreme Court: Merck Securities Fraud Lawsuit Can Proceed (FindLaw's Decided)
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