Merck has agreed to pay $27.7 million to settle more than 1,100 Fosamax jaw lawsuits, which may resolve the eight-year old litigation and avoid hundreds of individual trials that were going to be scheduled in courts throughout the country.
The Fosamax settlement agreement was announced by the drug maker on Monday, indicating that all claimants who satisfy eligibility requirements must accept the offer for the deal to be finalized.
Plaintiffs will have until March 31 to opt-out of the agreement, at which time Merck will have until May 15 to decide whether to go forward with the settlement if any claims are excluded.
The agreement only applies to lawsuits involving certain jaw injuries, such as ostenecrosis of the jaw, which is a painful and debilitating conditions that involves deterioration or decay of the jaw bone. About 4,000 Fosamax femur fracture lawsuits are not affected by the settlement.
Most of the cases included in the settlement are pending as part of an MDL, or Multi-District Litigation, before U.S. District Judge John Keenan in the Southern District of New York. Cases filed throughout the federal court system were consolidated for pretrial proceedings in 2005, to reduce duplicative discovery, avoid conflicting pretrial rulings and to serve the convenience of witnesses, parties and the courts.
A series of Fosamax bellwether trials were held in the jaw injury MDL, with mixed results.
Earlier this year, Judge Keenan determined that the purpose of the Fosamax jaw MDL had been concluded and planned to begin remanding each of the complaints back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for individual trial dates to be scheduled throughout the country.
Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is a blockbuster medication that was 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.