Fosamax Fracture Lawsuits Pushed Ahead of Jaw Cases for Trial in N.J.

The New Jersey judge who is presiding over the Fosamax litigation in the state has decided that the next trial date will involve a lawsuit over a femur fracture from Fosamax, as opposed to a claim involving a plaintiff who developed osteonecrosis of the jaw from Fosamax, even though the jaw injury cases are older.

In a letter sent on June 4, Judge Carol Higbee informed the parties involved in the New Jersey state court litigation that she intends to focus on bellwether cases involving fractures for the next trial date.

The first Fosamax trial in New Jersey resulted in a defense verdict in April, involving a plaintiff who alleged that side effects of the osteoporosis drug caused her jaw bone to decay and die.

While the next New Jersey trial was originally slated to be another case involving jaw decay, Judge Higbee has decided to move forward with a fracture lawsuit instead.

All Fosamax complaints filed in New Jersey state court have been centralized before Judge Higbee in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Atlantic County, as part of a “mass tort” for pretrial proceedings, including both fracture lawsuits and jaw decay claims.

There are currently about 1,800 cases consolidated before Judge Higbee, with the first cases filed in 2006 for individuals who allege that they suffered jaw damage from side effects of Fosamax. However, the volume of cases filed in recent years has increased dramatically as a result of a large number of complaints filed by individuals who suffered a spontaneous femur fracture on Fosamax, which typically occur with little or no trauma at all.

Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is a popular medication introduced by Merck in 1995 for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. Before it became available as a generic in 2008, the medication generated over $3 billion in annual sales and was used by millions of Americans

In October 2010, following an investigation by the FDA, Merck was required to add new warnings about the risk of bone fractures from Fosamax, which can occur during routine daily activities, such as while taking a step or falling from standing height or less. Following those warnings, the number of Fosamax suits filed by individuals throughout the United States increased dramatically.

In the federal court system, the Fosamax litigation involving femur fractures and jaw decay have been separated into two different multidistrict litigations (MDLs), with the jaw cases centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the Fosamax fracture lawsuits pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

In addition to the New Jersey Fosamax trial, in which a jury found that Fosamax was not responsible for the plaintiff’s jaw decay, at least five other cases have been presented to a jury involving allegations that the drug maker failed to warn about the risk of jaw damage from Fosamax. Merck has successfully defended itself in all but one of those cases. No Fosamax fracture lawsuits have yet been presented to a jury.

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