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Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
Thousands of people who took Fosamax, Merck & Co.’s blockbuster bone-building osteoporosis medication, subsequently developed a horrible condition called “osteonecrosis of the jaw” (ONJ). Many people who suffered this side effect are suing Merck for compensation. If you took Fosamax and believe it caused you this kind of injury, this page provides information on ONJ and steps you can take to make yourself whole.
What Is Osteonecrosis of the Jaw?
Osteonecrosis of the jaw literally means “jaw bone death.” It is a rare dental condition consisting of tissue damage in the gums and in the upper or lower jaw bones that does not heal properly even after treatment. The tissue damage occurs because the jaw bone does not receive adequate blood flow, and it weakens and eventually dies. The primary symptoms of ONJ are pain and numbness of the jaw, but they worsen from there.
Causes of ONJ
Dental experts are unsure of the precise causes of ONJ, but they do know of several risk factors. Using tobacco and alcohol can contribute to the condition, and it appears more likely to occur after tooth extraction procedures and other dental operations. As a result, moderating alcohol and tobacco consumption and maintaining good oral hygiene habits can reduce the risk. There is some evidence that using bisphosphonates, the drug class that includes Fosamax, contributes to the condition.
Bisphosphonates and ONJ
Bisphosphonates work by slowing down the process by which old bone tissue is broken down, maintaining bone density and preventing bone breaks. Some scientists have theorized that the drugs interfere with the body’s natural healing process, which contributes to ONJ, but the source of the association between bisphosphonates and ONJ is still not fully understood. There is, however, a growing body of scientific evidence establishing the connection. One recent study on the topic found that 83 percent of ONJ sufferers had used bisphosphonates, which the authors believed suggests a causal connection.
Merck Faces Numerous Fosamax ONJ Lawsuits
Because so many people filed Fosamax ONJ lawsuits, the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated their cases into a single multidistrict litigation (MDL) proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in August 2006. There are currently about 1,000 cases in the MDL, and five plaintiffs’ cases have gone to trial as “bellwethers” to help the parties determine the strength of their cases. Merck won four, but one of the plaintiffs won the fifth and received a jury award of $1.5 million.
Aside from the federal Fosamax ONJ MDL, another 1,700 Fosamax claims have been consolidated in New Jersey Superior Court, though some of the cases included are Fosamax femur fracture lawsuits. Merck has won two state-court ONJ bellwether trials. Additional federal and state trials should occur in the future.
RLG Represents People Injured by Defective Drugs
Osteonecrosis of the jaw is an awful medical condition that can result in permanent disfigurement. If you developed it or suffered a femur fracture while on Fosamax, it can only be worse if Merck’s negligence in testing the drug played a role. The Rottenstein Law Group can help you obtain compensation and achieve justice, and all you need to do for a free, confidential consultation with a lawyer is click on this link or call 1-877-476-1516.