A number of civil ligitation lawyers in Maryland are focusing on Fosamax® (Alendronate Sodium), a drug manufactured by Merck that is commonly used to treat patients with osteoporosis and Paget’s disease. The drug is prescribed to strengthen the bones and prevent fractures in patients who have osteoporosis or who are otherwise at risk for bone fractures and other bone related conditions.
For many, it has been a great drug. Paradoxically, these drugs can cause just the opposite effect. Accordingly, Fosamax and other bisphosphonates such as Aredia®, Zometa®, Actonel® and Boniva®, have drawn great interest from personal injury lawyers in Maryland and around the country. These drugs have been linked to Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (also called “ONJ,” “Dead Jaw” or “Jaw Death”). ONJ involves the breakdown or death of the jawbone, frequently leading to serious infection or fractures. Because this drug is the largest seller it has drawn the most interest from lawyers.
Unfortunately, many patients who take Fosamax, or a similar drug, have done so for years because the medication needs to be taken regularly to be continually efficacious. Many this will be the next great mass tort wave.
My guess is that this will one day be an MDL class action. However, it is hardto gauge the full extent of the side effects of because the drug’s half life is approximately 10 years.
In other words, users will still have half of the drug that they have taken in their body 10 years after they have stopped taking the drug. Putting this in some context, the half life of Zoloft® is 26 hours. That makes Fosamax’s half life approximately 3500 times that of Zoloft. The practical effect of this is that it is hard to predict the scope of the problem because, with such a long half life, it remains to be seen how much damage it will cause.