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July 25, 2012 / Admin

Fosamax Trial Highlights Problems with Bone Medications

The latest trial dealing with the drug Fosamax is highlighting some of the risks of medications designed to treat osteoporosis. The New York Times reported on November 10, that the latest trial involving a plaintiff allegedly injured by the pharmaceutical drug Fosamax is underway in New York City. The plaintiff in the latest case is Judith Graves, a 67-year-old retired investigator for the United States Army. After taking Fosamax, Graves suffered jawbone death, a condition that involves debilitating jawbone deterioration. She had to have five operations, eventually having her jaw replaced with bone from her left arm.

Graves says Fosamax is to blame for her jaw troubles. Fosamax is an oral bisphosphonate manufactured by Merck. The drug is designed to prevent bone mass deterioration caused by aging. Graves’s case is one of several test cases against Merck that is being tried. There are roughly 1,400 other cases against Merck alleging injuries caused by Fosamax. Two test cases have already been tried, with Merck winning one and the plaintiff winning a multimillion dollar judgment in the other. We have filed cases on behalf of people injured by the drug.

It is unclear how the Graves case will turn out, but as the New York Times reports, the case is serving as a backdrop for a larger debate about the proper use of oral bisphosphonates. Although the drugs have been shown to be effective in reducing bone fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, many doctors are concerned about the risks of prescribing them for too long. The Food and Drug Administration now requires the labels on Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, Reclast, Atelvia, and generic versions, to state that the optimal period of use of these drugs is unknown. The fear is that long-term use of the drugs could cause not only jawbone deterioration but also thigh fractures. And for many these risks outweigh the benefits of prescribing the drug to women who have not yet developed osteoporosis. Others have commented on the dilemma this poses for doctors.

This trial underscores how important it is for patients on oral bisphosphonates to discuss the risks of these drugs with their doctors. Although they have saved people from the aggravation of broken bones, they carry considerable risks as well.

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