Merck has filed a petition to consolidate and centralize all federal Fosamax bone fracture lawsuits before one judge for coordinated handing during pretrial litigation; a procedure known as an MDL or multidistrict litigation.
Although more than 900 Fosamax lawsuits against Merck have already been consolidated as part of an MDL in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for the past several years, those cases all involve claims that side effects of Fosamax caused a rare jaw injury, known as osteonecrosis of the jaw. However, there are now a growing number of Fosamax suits filed against the drug maker by individuals who have suffered a femur fracture or other bone fracture after taking the osteoporosis drug for a long time.
On March 23, Merck asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to create a new MDL for this separate category of injuries allegedly caused by Fosamax, where plaintiffs claim that long-term use of Fosamax increases the risk of low-trauma or no-trauma fractures, particularly involving the femur or thigh bone.
Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is a member of a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates, which have been increasingly associated with these rare fractures, typically occurring with falls from standing height or less.
The FDA added warnings about the risk of bone fractures from Fosamax and other similar bisphosphonate medications in October 2010, requiring drug makers to warn consumers that they should seek immediate medical attention if they experience new groin pain or thigh pain while taking the drug, which can occur weeks or months before a complete fracture of the femur on Fosamax occurs.
More than 100 people have filed a Fosamax bone fracture lawsuit, alleging that Merck failed to adequately research their medication or provide adequate warnings before they suffered a femur fracture or bone break. The claims are contained in 36 complaints that have been filed in at least 8 different federal district courts throughout the United States. In addition, the number of lawsuits is expected to continue to increase as Fosamax femur fracture lawyers continue to review and file new cases.
Merck has asked the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to centralize and consolidate the Fosamax bone fracture litigation before District Judge Garrett Brown in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, where most of the cases are currently pending and where the drug maker has it’s headquarters. In the alternative, Merck requested that the Panel transfer the cases to the U.S. District for the Western District of Louisiana, preferably before Judge Rebecca Doherty.
Known as an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, such centralization is common in complex product liability claims involving a large number of lawsuits over injuries associated with a particular product. The process is designed to avoid duplicative discovery, prevent inconsistent rulings by different judges and to promote the efficient litigation of the cases.
Bone fracture lawsuits were excluded from the prior Fosamax MDL, which was established in August 2006 for claims filed by individuals who suffered decay of the jaw bone from Fosamax. That litigation is at an advanced stage, as several bellwether trials have already occurred and the presiding judge has indicated that he may consider remanding the cases for individual trials after four more bellwether case are heard before a jury in the MDL.
The Fosamax fracture cases were excluded from the jaw injury MDL because it was determined that the evidence of general causation leading to femure fractures would likely differ substantially from cases dealing with jaw bone damage.