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Merck Must Prepare State And Federal Class Action Defense Against New Lawsuits Involving Fosamax

Plaintiff Class Action Lawyers Again Set Sights On Pharmaceutical Giant, Still in Defense Mode on Vioxx

Los Angeles Times reporter Molly Selvin believes pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. is seeing the beginning of a new wave of class action litigation. Merck is already dealing with the near-daily filing of class action lawsuits involving pain reliever Vioxx. See, e.g., International Union of Operating Engineers Local #68 Welfare Fund v. Merck & Co., Inc., 894 A.2d 1136 (N.J.Super.A.D. 2006) (affirming certification of class action). Now, Molly Selvin reports, it is also “fielding the first of what could be another wave of lawsuits involving Fosamax, its second-biggest seller.”

Fosamax is an osteoporosis drug. As Selvin explains, “Reports in the last few years have linked Fosamax and similar drugs, known as bisphosphonates, to a serious side effect in which the jawbone partially crumbles and dies.” The actual rate of incidence of this side effect, known as “osteonecrosis,” is quite small; in fact, according to Merck, clinical trials involving 17,000 patients revealed no evidence of osteonecrosis. Further, no one appears to dispute the substantial benefit the drug provides for the vast majority of its users. Selvin states “Fosamax is probably the best-known brand-name drug for preventing hip fractures and deteriorating bones that often destroy the quality of life for older women.” But that hasn’t dented the advertising campaign being waged by plaintiff class action attorneys. Merck’s defense to these class action lawsuits will be interesting to follow, particularly since Merck reports that the Fosamax label was revised in July 2005 to warn about the risk of osteonecrosis.

Selvin’s article, entitled “Lawyers Gear Up To Attack Fosamax,” may be found in the July 10, 2006 edition of the Los Angeles Times.