A settlement agreement that includes claims of more than 1,200 plaintiffs in federal and state courts has been reached with Merck & Co. Inc. to pay $27.7 million related to the bone drug Fosamax. Fosamax has been claimed to have caused a condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis is a serious bone disease first associated with high doses of bisphosphanates used for oncology patients. Even lower doses of bisphosphanates have been associated with this condition. Fosamax contains some of this product used for patients with bone disorders, such as osteoporosis.
The settlement was reached after a district court judge handling the multidistrict litigation (MDL) ordered 200 cases per month sent back to their home courts for further disposition and trial. None of the transfers had occurred before the settlement was reached.
This litigation began in 2005 with seven bellwether trials having gone to jury verdicts. Merck was successful in winning five of those cases, but also lost two cases in which the verdicts were $285,000 and $8 million. The latter verdict was later reduced to $1.5 million. This settlement does not include another set of cases alleging that Fosamax causes femur fractures. Those claims are in a separate multidistrict litigation federal court and are still pending.