Last week a jury returned a verdict in favor of Merck. It was one of 3 cases to have gone to trial so far and the results of those cases are mixed, with Merck losing one case with an $8 million verdict that was later reduced to $1.5 million.
This most recent case to go to trial, brought by a Florida woman against Merck, was just one of about 1400 cases scheduled to proceed against the manufacture of Fosamax. The case, Graves v. Merck, involved claims that Fosamax had caused osteonecrosis of the jaw (a painful disease with infections and bone death occurring in the jaw bones).
What does this mean for the other 1400 plaintiffs? On one hand, this is just one case. Each case gets tried on the unique facts that apply to that case. On the other hand, this case may impact the value if a settlement is to be reached globally. However, it still does not directly impact the rights of each plaintiff to proceed with their own case against Merck. For example, according the NY Times the plaintiff in this case also appears to have used steriods, which are also know to impact bone health. Maybe that explains the result. Or, as the New York Times also reported, perhaps the result can be explained as follows:
Because the first published report appeared in October of 2003, six months after Mrs. Graves’s condition became evident, the jury may have concluded that Merck could not possibly have known about such an association at the time of the plaintiff’s dental problems.
So far, the average verdict against Merck is $500,000.
In related news, on October 13, 2010, the FDA announced that it is gong to require all bisphosphonate drug labels (including the Fosamax warning label) to include precautionary information about the association of femur fractures. This comes as a result of a recent study showing a very high correlation between these drugs and a very specific and rare type of femur fracture.