Defense Verdict Returned in Fourth Fosamax Bellwether Trial

A federal jury has ruled in favor of Merck in a bellweather Fosamax lawsuit, determining that the drug maker was not to responsible for a severe case of jaw damage suffered by an elderly Florida woman. 

The verdict was handed down Monday in a Fosamax jaw decay suit brought by Linda Secrest, who alleged that Merck failed to adequately warn that side effects of Fosamax can lead to severe damage to the jaw bone.

Jurors determined that Secrest failed to establish that her condition, known as osteonecrosis of the jaw or ONJ, was caused by Fosamax use.

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The trial was held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where the federal Fosamax jaw decay litigation is centralized as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation. The case is one of several so-called bellwether trials, which are cases selected for early trial dates to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to evidence that may be presented in other cases.

While the outcomes of these early trials are not binding in other lawsuits that have been filed, they are often closely watched by lawyers involved in the litigation, and could impact the potential value of any Fosamax settlement discussions in the more than 1,000 other claims that are pending against Merck.

Secrest’s trial was the fourth federal Fosamax lawsuit over alleged jaw decay caused by the popular osteoporosis drug to go before a jury. While Merck has successfully defended its medication in three cases, one lawsuit resulted in an $8 million jury award for Fosamax jaw damage last year, finding that Merck failed to adequately research the potential side effects of warn about the risk of jaw necrosis from Fosamax. However, the judge subsequently determined that the verdict was excessive and Merck is appealing the case.

Fosamax is an osteoporosis drug that belongs to a family of similar medications known as bisphosphonates. Long-term use of oral bisphosphonates has been linked to an increased risk of serious and debilitating jaw problems, known as osteonecrosis of the jaw. The condition causes the jaw bone to decay and rot, often resulting in the need for surgery to remove portions of the jaw.

In recent months, Merck has also faced a growing number of lawsuits over femur fractures from Fosamax, which allege that users suffered spontaneous broken bones that often occur with little or no trauma at all. Earlier this year, all Fosamax bone fracture lawsuits were consolidated in a separate MDL, which is centralized in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.


  • ChristineOctober 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Our legal system has been infiltrated by legal drug lords. While we spend billions battling 'illegal' drug lords, the legal drug lords are protected by our own courts. Unfortunately, many in the government who are taking bribes, don't realize that one day, someone they love will be hurt or killed by their money grubbing actions.

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