Merck Wins A Bellwether Fosamax Trial

Merck Wins A Bellwether Fosamax Trial

October 4th, 2011 // 1:39 pm @

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A federal court jury this morning decided that the Fosamax osteoporosis drug should not be blamed for causing a type of jaw damage known as osteonecrosis in which tissue is severely damaged. Linda Secrest had filed a lawsuit against Merck, which sells the med, and claimed Fosamax concealed the risks of the drug and that a design defect caused her jawbone tissue to die.

The outcome is significant because the Secrest trial was one of a few so-called bellwether lawsuits, which can be used to assist attorneys to evaluate similar cases for determining settlement talks and strategies. As of June 30, 2011, there were about 1,650 lawsuits, including approximately 2,050 plaintiff groups, that have been filed in federal and state courts.

Several weeks ago, a federal court judge ruled that the former United Airlines flight attendant, who lives in Florida and used the drug from 1998 to 2005, could not pursue punitive damages or a claim that Merck failed to warn of possible problems with its drug (see this). US District Court Judge John Keenan had made a similar ruling in an earlier case in which he decided that a reasonable jury could not find that Merck intentionally misrepresented or concealed the risk before the plaintiff sustained an injury. Unlike the Secrest trial, though, Merck lost that lawsuit based on design defect.

“We believe the company acted properly,” Chilton Varner of the King & Spalding law firm says in a statement. “Unfortunately, the plaintiff had medical problems that cause people to develop the jaw and dental problems that the plaintiff has, regardless of whether they were taking Fosamax. She has a long history of invasive dental procedures and suffers from medical conditions that inhibit the body’s ability to heal.”

The Secrest trial was the fourth bellwether case over Fosamax. Earlier this year, a New Jersey state court jury decided that the drug did not cause a 67-year-old woman to develop jaw damage; this was the first state court trial to reach a verdict and, at the time, only the fourth to go to trial.

Three other trials were held in federal court in Manhattan, and Merck won the first case. The second lawsuit, which is known as the Boles case and is noted above, ended in a mistrial in September 2009 and Merck lost a retrial last year, although an $8 million award was subsequently reduced and Merck is appealing. Merck won the third case last November.

Source: Pharmalot

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