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Millions of women take Fosamax (Alendronate Sodium) prescribed by their doctors in order to prevent and treat osteoporosis or bone loss. This class of drugs, bisphosphonates, also includes Actonel, Aredia, Boniva, and Zometa.
Who would ever imagine that taking Fosamax Alendronate to prevent or improve bone loss could be the cause of jaw bone death and decay?
What is alendronate?
- Alendronate is a compound that alters the cycle of bone formation and breakdown in your body.
- Alendronate increases new bone formation.
- Fosamax is used to treat and prevent osteoporosis and to treat Paget's disease.
- Fosamax is also used to treat osteoporosis that is caused by treatment with a corticosteroid.
- Fosamax may also be used for other purposes.
But what they don't know which until very recently was not revealed to the public is that these Fosamax types of medications have been linked to jaw bone decay or osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) which was noted in patients who had undergone oral surgery and failed to heal properly. Part of the jawbone had died and become exposed causing excruciating pain and disfigurement.
According to a lawsuit filed in April 2006 at the U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, Fla., Fosamax is a defective product because it can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) or what is commonly referred to as rotting of the jaw bone. The suit, which seeks class action status, alleges that Merck & Co., concealed and continues to hide Fosamax's potentially dangerous side effects from patients and doctors.
Fosamax is Merck's second best-selling drug with last year's revenue around $3.2 billion.
Fosamax belongs to a category of drugs known as nitrogenous bisphosphonates. Some other drugs in that category (Zometa) are used for chemotherapy and the lawsuit claims medical journals had been reporting a connection between nitrogenous bisphosphonates and jaw bone decay. The Fosamax lawsuit contends that since Fosamax is in the same class of drugs, Merck should have known that Fosamax could lead to similar problems.
In the past women relied on hormone replacement therapy to keep bones healthy after menopause. Recent studies linked estrogen with an increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer. Therefore, more women began taking Fosamax and other bisphosphonates at a younger age. Since these women use the medications for a much longer time span, they are at an increased risk of jaw bone decay or ONJ.