Fosamax judge tells jury to cool off

Cool it, jurors. That's what the U.S. judge hearing the first Fosamax jaw-deterioration case said yesterday after disagreements among jury members got, well, a little overheated. Judge John Keenan gave the jury a break from deliberating--a so-called "cooling off period"--and said he would declare a mistrial if the group doesn't come to an agreement by the end of day Friday.

This case--pitting 71-year-old Shirley Boles against Merck--is the first of almost 900 lawsuits filed by a patient who used the bone drug. The suits claim that Fosamax caused osteonecrosis of the jaw. Lawyers are closely watching the Boles case and two others set for trial to see how the remaining hundreds might be settled or tried.

If the rest of the suits go the way of the Boles case, the U.S. court system is in for a lot of brouhaha. Boles' lawyer requested a mistrial yesterday, after one of the jurors said a chair was thrown at her in the jury room. "Frankly, it's been the most brutal deliberation and the most audible deliberation I have ever been privy to," Timothy O'Brien, Boles' lawyer, told the judge (as quoted by Bloomberg). Merck opposed the mistrial, saying that the accusation--made via a note to the judge--was unsubstantiated. So the jury has till end of day tomorrow to make up its mind.

- read the Bloomberg story
- see the coverage from Reuters 

ALSO: A Manhattan federal judge rejected Merck's effort to dismiss 24 cases alleging that its Fosamax drug treatment for osteoporosis causes jaw damage. Article