As a pharmaceutical liability attorney, I was interested to see the beginning of the second U.S. trial in a Foxamax injury case. As Bloomberg News reported April 7, Bernadette Glynn is suing the drug manufacturer Merck, arguing that a long-term prescription for Fosamax (alendronate sodium) to treat osteoporosis actually caused her thigh bone to break under minor stress, as she bent over to pick something up in her own driveway. This is a known side effect of long-term Fosamax use; the FDA added a warning in 2010 that users are at increased risk for a rare type of fracture to the upper thigh after little or no physical force. Studies suggest that long-term use can actually make patients’ bones more brittle. Glynn’s trial is the second to make these claims publicly; the first was called off when the plaintiff developed a sudden health problem unrelated to her claims.
Glynn started taking Fosamax for osteoporosis in 2002, with prescriptions over the years from four doctors and one nurse. In 2009, as she bent down in her driveway, she felt a pinch in her right leg. She then tried to take a step, but fell down and was ultimately diagnosed with a fracture in her right femur. This required a rod and screws to set. In September of 2011, she and her husband sued Merck, arguing that the increase in bone density caused by Fosamax doesn’t always result in a lowered risk of broken bones. They argued that if Merck had been more forthcoming with safety information, Glynn would likely not have taken the drug. Merck has argued that Glynn’s doctors would have prescribed the drug even if they’d known about the risk of a fracture; that her bone fracture was not an atypical fracture of the kind known to be a risk of taking Fosamax; and that her broken leg was caused by her osteoporosis.
The atypical leg fracture risk was discovered by researchers investigating long-term use of Fosamax and competing drugs in the biphosphonate family. In an article published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, scientists said they appear to be associated with an increased risk of atypical thighbone fractures. Nearly a third of people with such fractures were taking a biphosphonate drug, they said. This was 15 years after Fosamax was approved for sale in the United States; it had sales as high as $3 billion a year before patent protection ended in 2008. FDA reports published in 2011 and 2012 said long-term use can actually make the bones weaker, and that any benefit to women without a diagnosis of osteoporosis ends after about five years. In 2010, it revised the label for Fosamax to reflect this concern.
As a dangerous drug lawyer, I will be interested to see how this lawsuit is received. Merck has already gone to trial with seven related lawsuits over Fosamax, alleging it causes osteonecrosis of the jaw—literal death of the jawbone, causing painful and disfiguring lesions. If Glynn is right that Merck failed to adequately study the safety of Fosamax—or even covered up knowledge it did have—the drug maker could be liable in both types of case, and any other bone injury case that might be related to Fosamax. In my experience as a defective drug attorney, unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to find that drug manufacturers blocked the release of information that could harm sales of blockbuster drugs, and Fosamax—often prescribed to prevent osteoporosis—had blockbuster potential because nearly every woman over a certain age can be at risk for osteoporosis.
If you believe you were injured by a defective prescription or over-the-counter drug that didn’t adequately warn you about the risk, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe. We represent clients across the United States who are seeking justice and compensation for their dangerous drug injuries. To learn more, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online.
Similar blog posts:
Second Circuit Rejects Bid to Include Expert Testimony in Fosamax Injury Case – In re Fosamax Products Liability Litigation
Second Circuit Punts Tolling Question in Fosamax Injury Case to Virginia Supreme Court – Casey et al. v. Merck
Virginia Supreme Court Rules Deadline to Sue Not Waived by Actions in Other Courts – Casey v. Merck