The Unseen Problem With Drugs
Judith Graves developed a rare medical condition called jawbone death after taking Fosamax, a drug used by millions of American women with thinning bones.
The F.D.A. said the optimal period for using drugs like Fosamax was unknown.
In a civil trial now under way in Manhattan, Mrs. Graves is suing Merck, the maker of Fosamax. Her lawyer, Timothy M. O’Brien, told the jury that Fosamax had caused such debilitating jawbone deterioration that Mrs. Graves required five major operations, including a lengthy surgery to replace her broken jaw with bone from her left arm.
Merck has argued that Fosamax is not the culprit. In its defense, Merck contends that Mrs. Graves took other prescriptions — like steroids to treat rheumatoid arthritis — that weakened her immune system, leading to her jaw infection and healing problems, said Paul F. Strain, outside counsel for the company.
The lawsuit is one of a handful of bellwether cases against Merck representing litigation involving about 1,400 people across the country who say they developed jawbone ailments after taking Fosamax, Mr. O’Brien said. Merck won an earlier case; but in another, a judge proposed to reduce a plaintiff’s jury award to $1.5 million from $8 million (both sides plan to appeal).
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