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Osteonecrosis of the Jaw

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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.

Alternatives to Fosamax

Home » Alternatives to Fosamax


Alternatives to Fosamax

In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Merck & Co., Inc.’s Fosamax (alendronate sodium), a member of the bisphosphonate drug class meant to treat osteoporosis. Although Merck has earned many billions of dollars from Fosamax, it faces the possibility of distributing money back to some of its consumers for several reasons relating to side effects the drug can potentially cause. Examples include jaw bone death, esophageal cancer, eye disease, and unusual femur fractures. Merck faces thousands of lawsuits from people who took Fosamax and suffered these side effects. In 2010, the FDA even published research in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) finding long-term Fosamax use to be of little value to people with osteoporosis. One of the authors commented, “I think a lot of people are going to come off this drug.”

Those who have taken Fosamax for a few years might be unsure what therapies they can take up instead of Fosamax that will continue to help them maintain their bone density. Here are some examples.


One of the best alternatives to taking a bisphosphonate is to eat well. Patients with brittle bones benefit from consuming calcium and vitamin D.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends women aged 51 and over get 1,200 mg/day of calcium.
The NAS sets the recommended number of international units (IU) of vitamin D, which absorbs calcium, to 600 IU per day for women under 70 and 800 IU per day after 70.

Bone density and bone mass can be maintained with regular exercise. Those going off bisphosphonates might want to consider adding these workouts to their routines.

Weight-bearing exercise: walking, jogging, hiking, and even dancing
Resistance exercise: This means working against the weight of another object with free weights, cable and pulley machines, and bodyweight training such as push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, and others.
Flexibility exercises: Practicing yoga or Tai Chi, or taking up stretching exercises can improve the health of joints and prevent injury.
Drug Therapy

Fosamax does affect bone density in some beneficial ways, so adopting non-pharmaceutical habits isn’t the only way to stave off osteoporosis. There are a few drugs people with osteoporosis can take that do not cause thigh bone breaks.

Denosumab: An FDA-approved prescription drug marketed as Prolia, this drug helps postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who are at a high risk of fracture.
Strontium: A 2004 NEJM article found that strontium supplements reduce nonvertabral fractures and increase bone density. It is available over the counter.
Raloxifene: This drug is marketed as Evista and can treat thinning bones in postmenopausal women. It might even reduce the probability of certain types of breast cancer.
RLG Advocates for People Injured by Fosamax

Although Fosamax has bone-strengthening properties, it can also make them brittle and susceptible to fractures and jaw bone death. If you took Fosamax and believe it injured you, the Rottenstein Law Group can help you seek compensation from Merck for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages. For a free, confidential case review with an attorney, click on this link or call 1-877-476-1516.


Fosamax is the brand name for the drug alendronate sodium, prescribed for post-menopausal women and men with osteoporosis. Fosamax works by reducing bone degeneration, a process referred to as “resorption.”

Since 2000, the U.S. FDA has known about Fosamax’s tendency to cause osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), a painful, disfiguring bone disease. More recently, research has linked Fosamax use to sudden, unusual bone fractures.

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Read the most recent updates

A new study finds a connection between Fosamax use and non-healing thigh bone fractures…. Read more
In a regulatory filing, Merck stated that the first federal-level Fosamax femur fracture MDL bellwether trial will begin in 2013…. Read more
In a regulatory filing, Merck disclosed that one Fosamax femur fracture bellwether trial in the New Jersey multicounty litigation will begin in March 2013…. Read more

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