Fosamax, a bisphosphonate drug that is designed to protect bone density, has been on the market since 1995 and is marketed by Merck and Co. in the United States. It is usually prescribed to post-menopausal women who are at a high risk for osteoporosis and sometimes to cancer patients who have experienced minor bone loss due to cancer treatments. In some cases, Fosamax, as well as stronger bisphosphonates, are given intravenously to cancer patients during chemotheraphy. Lately, certain risks and side effects attributed to this medication have caused the safety of bisphosphonates to come into question prompting Fosamax lawsuits around the country.
Currently, Fosamax is the most popular drug prescribed for osteoporosis in the U.S. and is prescribed on average over 22 million times per year. Merck and Co. reports grossing $3 billion annually from Fosamax. It is intended to slow down the activity of cells which dissolve bones thereby helping to safeguard bone density. Other drugs that work in this same way are Actonel and once-a-month Boniva which also fall into the bisphosphonate drug class.
In September of 2004, the Food and Drug Administration warned physicians and health care providers around the country of the correlation of Fosamax and a condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis of the jaw is an incapacitating condition that makes the jaw bone unable to recover after some sort of trauma. This leaves the sufferer at an increased risk for bone fracture and infection.
Side Effects of Fosamax
Medical experts and physicians have questioned the advantages of Fosamax and similar drugs for the treatment of osteoporosis. A study in the Journal of Rheumatology found that 88,000 people who took bisphosphonates had nearly three times the risk of developing osteonecrosis compared to those who had not taken bisphosphonates.
Complications with Osteonecrosis
If you are or have taken Fosamax, it is necessary to avoid major dental procedures or tooth extraction as this may lead to exposed bone. If you do have osteonecrosis of the jaw, this exposed bone will be unable to heal and can lead to deterioration of the bone, increased risk for fractures and infections resulting in the destruction of surrounding bone tissue. The link between Fosamax and osteonecrosis of the jaw has impelled health practitioners, dentists and endodonists to closely monitor the health and well being of their patients taking Fosamax.
As of January 2008, the FDA issued a word of caution, describing "the possibility of severe and sometimes incapacitating bone, joint, and/or muscle pain in patients taking bisphosphonates." The FDA also noted that such pain may occur immediately after beginning the use of bisphosphonates, or take as long as years before suffering begins. Bisphosphonate drugs stays in your body for long periods after you begin taking it.
Lawsuits Against Merck
Merck and Co. is currently facing more than 400 lawsuits due to the link between Fosamax and osteonecrosis of the jaw according to the Wall Street Journal, Also reported was that the pharmaceutical company has set aside $50 million for litigation costs. They are being targeted for aggressively marketing a drug with hazardous known side effects.
If you have osteonecrosis of the jaw, or suspect you may have it, schedule an appointment with a local defective drug attorney to voice your concerns.