Thousands of patients taking the osteoporosis medication Fosamax have allegedly developed a serious condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) that led them to seek compensation from drugmaker Merck & Co. through a lawsuit. In the paragraphs below more information about Fosamax and ONJ is provided, including what steps to take if you believe Merck is responsible for causing your jawbone injury.
What is Osteonecrosis of the Jaw?
Osteonecrosis of the jaw (literally “jaw bone death”) is a rare dental condition marked by lesions in the gum over the maxilla (upper jaw) or mandible (lower jaw) that don’t heal even after appropriate treatment. Jaw bone affected by ONJ does not receive an adequate supply of blood and as a result weakens and can eventually die. Deterioration of the jaw bone is often accompanied by pain or numbness (read about other ONJ symptoms).
What Causes ONJ?
While the exact cause of ONJ is uncertain, the disease does have several known risk factors. Both tobacco and alcohol can contribute to ONJ and their use should be accordingly moderated. Osteonecrosis is also more likely to occur after dental extractions or other surgeries, and practicing good oral hygiene after an invasive dental procedure can reduce the risk of developing ONJ. There is furthermore evidence that suggests bisphosphonates, a type of bone-building drug commonly taken by those suffering from or at risk for osteoporosis, are associated with ONJ.
Bisphosphonates and ONJ
Bisphosphonates such as Fosamax help maintain bone density by slowing down the process by which old bone is broken down. It has been theorized that the drugs contribute to ONJ by disrupting the body’s natural healing process, but the exact association between the bone disease and bisphosphonates is not fully understood.
Nonetheless, there is a large body of scientific evidence that shows an association between bisphosphonates and ONJ. The most recent study to explore the topic found that 83% of ONJ sufferers had used bisphosphonates, an elevated risk that researchers say suggests a causal link.
Thousands of Fosamax Users Suing Merck
Fosamax is one of the bisphosphonates believed to cause jaw bone necrosis. Responding to a strong increase in the number of Fosamax ONJ lawsuits filed against Merck, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) designated in August 2006 MDL (multidistrict litigation) status for the cases. The federal mass tort currently contains approximately 1,000 claims against Merck. Five initial Fosamax lawsuits have gone to trial, with Merck winning four of them. In a fifth case, however, the jury decided in favor of a $1.5 million plaintiff reward.
In addition to the federal MDL against Merck, the company faces Fosamax-related ONJ cases in New Jersey Superior Court as part of a mass tort with more than 1,700 claims (some related to the alleged ability of Fosamax to cause femur fractures). Merck has won the first two New Jersey state-court ONJ cases to be tried.
Additional state and federal Fosamax ONJ lawsuits are scheduled for trial in 2012.
Schedule a Free Lawsuit Review with RLG
If you or someone you know developed ONJ while taking Fosamax, submit the details of your case to the Rottenstein Law Group to receive a complimentary case evaluation. Whether or not Merck agrees to a settlement, you’ll need experienced representation to ensure that you receive compensation commensurate with your losses. To speak with a lawyer, fill out this form or call 1-877-332-2347 now.