It’s not unusual in pharmaceutical injury lawsuits for many similar cases from around the United States to be consolidated in front of one judge. These multi-district litigation cases are a way of combining many cases with the same issues against the same defendant, so both sides can resolve it more quickly and less expensively. One such MDL was pending in New York City against the drug company Merck, with hundreds of plaintiffs alleging that they developed jaw problems from taking its drug Fosamax (alendronate sodium). Fosamax is for treatment of osteoporosis, but it has the very serious side effect of causing osteonecrosis—that is, literal death of the bones, often the jawbone. Roughly 1,000 of the 5,075 U.S. Fosamax injury lawsuits were pending in Manhattan federal court, reports Reuters, until the judge ordered that all of them be returned to their home courts after settlement negotiations failed.
The judge’s order came two weeks after mediation on a subset of the cases broke down. The settlement talks followed the completion of five “bellwether” cases, of which Merck won three and plaintiffs won two—including one with an original jury verdict of $8 million. The order to de-consolidate the cases requires that 200 cases per month be sent back to the courts where they were originally filed, starting with the oldest ones. That rate is faster than the schedule either side requested. The first batch must be agreed on and submitted to the court by Oct. 11. De-consolidation of an MDL is unusual, and is likely to cost Merck more money. That’s because the drug maker will need to defend itself in many courts now, rather than one, requiring more time from more attorneys. A plaintiff’s attorney told Reuters he expected Merck to continue trying to settle; he noted that a similar order forced a settlement in the Vioxx cases.
The trouble with Fosamax is that in at least some patients, it does the opposite of what it’s intended to do. Fosamax is used in osteoporosis sufferers and people at risk for the condition to strengthen bones. But within a few years of its introduction, reports of broken bones and jaw problems began rolling in to the FDA. In particular, dental work seems to increase the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw, in which bone cells die and simply rot away, weakening the jawbone and causing lesions in the mouth that won’t heal. In cases of osteonecrosis caused by Fosamax, surgery to remove the damaged bone often doesn’t work; doctors focus on controlling the pain and managing infections. The bone fracture risk can also affect the patient’s life substantially. Broken bones and loss of independence are a serious concern for older women, the demographic at highest risk of osteoporosis. The risk of leg fractures is so serious that the FDA added a black box warning to the label of Fosamax back in 2010.
Based in St. Louis and southern Illinois, Carey, Danis & Lowe represents clients from around the United States who have been seriously injured by taking a prescription drug. That includes an injury like a broken bone you believe was caused by Fosamax, as well as illnesses or deaths in the family attributable to a defective prescription drug. Our attorneys have substantial experience representing clients in lawsuits against makers of dangerous drugs. We understand how to properly request full compensation for a complex injury, including compensation for lost income, pain and suffering and lost quality of life. And we’re proud of our strong record of victories on behalf of our clients.
Carey, Danis & Lowe offers free consultations, so you risk nothing by telling us about your situation and hearing about your options. To set up a meeting, call us today at 1-877-678-3400 or send us a message online.
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