Merck prevails in second Fosamax case

Two down and one to go. Merck just won summary judgment in one of the three closely watched Fosamax liability suits. It's the second Fosamax case to go down; in September, the first suit to go to court ended in a mistrial. It's expected to be retried, but a date hasn't yet been set.

Merck is facing about 950 state and federal lawsuits over Fosamax, its osteoporosis drug. Plaintiffs allege that the drug can cause osteonecrosis of the jawbone (ONJ) and that Merck didn't warn patients properly about that risk. Some 700 of those cases have been consolidated in U.S. District Judge John Keenan's court.

Keenan ruled yesterday that expert witnesses for plaintiff Bessie Flemings didn't show that Fosamax actually caused her ONJ. "Plaintiff has offered no other evidence to establish that Fosamax caused her to develop ONJ, and therefore her failure-to-warn claim is insufficient as a matter of law," Keenan wrote.

Flemings' attorney said he figured the verdict won't affect the other Fosamax cases. "[A]s I read it, it's specific to this case," he said, adding that he plans to appeal Keenan's ruling. For its part, Merck said that it was pleased that the court agreed Flemings' evidence wasn't reliable. "Unfortunately," said attorney Paul Strain in a statement, "Ms. Flemings had medical problems that cause people to develop jaw problems regardless of whether they were taking Fosamax."

- see Merck's statement
- get the news from Dow Jones
- read the Bloomberg piece