Federal judge, Judge Keenan has appointed a law professor to oversee settlement talks in hundreds of Fosamax jaw decay lawsuits filed throughout the United States.
John Feerick, of the Fordham University School of law was appointed Special Settlement Master on November 22, in the federal multidistrict ligitation (MDL) for all federal lawsuits involving jaw problems from Fosamax.
Feerick will attempt to facilitate a Fosamax settlement agreement between Merck and plaintiffs who claim that the osteoporosis drug caused them to suffer decay of the jaw bone, known as osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).
If the resolution of the Fosamax jaw litigation is not successful, then Judge Keenan may remand individual lawsuits back to the federal district courts where they were originally filed for individual trials throughout the country.
There are currently close to a thousand product liability lawsuits over Fosamax jaw necrosis filed in federal court against Merck, with another two hundred cases pending in New Jersey and other state courts. All of the complaints involve similar claims that Merck failed to adequately warn consumers and doctors about the risk of Fosamax side effects.
Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is an oral bisphosphonate medication, which has been associated with decay of the jawbone when taken long-term or at high doses. With a very long half-life of 10 years, most of the Fosamax claims argue that dose accumulation over time increases the risk of ONJ; where the jaw bone begins to decay and can result in bone showing through the skin. In some cases full or partial jaw removal is required, with resulting facial deformities.
Merck has successfully defended its medication in all but one of the Fosamax jaw cases that have gone to trial so far. In the one trial where the plaintiff was successful in establishing that the medication caused her jaw problems, the jury awarded $8 million in damages from Fosamax. Judge Keenan subsequently ruled that the verdict was excessive and the plaintiff elected to have another trial rather than accepting Keenan’s reduced award of $1.5 million. Merck is currently appealing that verdict on other grounds.
In addition to the jaw litigation, Merck also faces a growing number of Fosamax lawsuits over sudden femur fractures, which have been consolidated before U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey as part of a separate multidistrict litigation (MDL).