Fosamax blizzard hits Northeast Texas

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Aug. 6, 2007, 6:38am

MARSHALL -- It doesn't snow often in Northeast Texas, but the blizzard of lawsuits hitting Merck's medication Fosamax keeps blowing into town.

Approved for marketing in September of 1995, Fosamax is a bisphosphonate drug which is prescribed to slow down osteoporosis and treat Paget's disease. In more than 100 product liability cases against Fosamax, allegations are abounding that the drug causes osteonecrosis, specifically, jawbone death. Osteonecrosis is caused is when bone loses blood supply and the bone dies.

East Texas joined the litigation flurry on Tuesday, July 31, when on behalf of plaintiffs' Janis and John Graham, attorney Mark Lanier of Houston filed suit in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Plaintiff Janis Graham took Fosamax from July 2001 until May of 2004. She was diagnosed with jaw osteonecrosis on June 13, 2003.

The complaint states that Fosamax contains a nitrogen atom which chemotherapy studies have shown a connection with osteonecrosis. Furthermore, Merck knew the significant risk posed by ingestion of the drug, but failed to warn consumers. Continuing the allegations, plaintiffs assert that Merck knew Fosamax "inhibits endothelial cell function" and "inhibits vascularization of the affected area." These cumulative factors "can progress to widespread necrosis."

Plaintiffs also allege the FDA recommended labeling changes to address the risk, but defendant has yet to comply. Causes for action include: negligence, failure to warn, defective design, breach of express and implied warranty, fraud, concealment and unjust enrichment.

Currently, Merck and Company, Inc. has not responded to this lawsuit. In regard to previous lawsuits, Merck President and CEO Richard Clark states, "it is important to remember that Fosamax has been marketed in the U.S. for over 10 years. Reports of ONJ are relatively rare and may occur for a number of reasons. We are actively defending the company in this litigation."

Plaintiffs are seeking actual and punitive damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, medical and counseling expenses. Jury trial requested with Judge Davis presiding.

Case No. 2:07-cv-00318

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