Developing drugs to alleviate or cure certain conditions is a tricky business. The human body is both complex and delicate, requiring that whatever may be produced and introduced to the body be done with extreme care and caution. A series of recent lawsuits (approximately 900 have been filed ,to date) are claiming that Fosamax, an osteoporosis drug produced by Merck & Co., causes the death of jawbone tissue, which has led to jaw removal for several users of the drug. The first case went to trial today, August 11th.
The plaintiff will argue that Merck failed in their duty to provide safe drugs to consumers and make potential health risks clear to consumers. Allegedly, Merck knew about the apparent connection between Fosamax and the disease as early as the mid 1990s, yet did not change the drug label to warn consumers about potential risks associated with taking their drug. According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Timothy O’Brien:
"Merck had notice through adverse reports starting in 1996."
And the drug company had "thousands of reports" of jawbone loss since.
Two disturbing issues are raised by this case. If the connection between Fosamax and the death of jawbone tissue is true ("thousands of reports" are referenced) then Merck brought a drug to market that may cause severe harm to its users. While this is egregious behavior, even more troubling is the company’s alleged ignorance or denial of the facts concerning their drug, which, if true, may amount to gross negligence: The company allegedly kept the drug’s label unchanged, despite thousands of reports surfacing in 9 year span (Merck changed their label in 2005, however the plaintiffs claim that again the company did not sufficiently warn consumers about the drug’s risks.)
Mistakes are bad business; refusing to face the facts and warn consumers about risks associated with an ingested product is a shameful display of apathy towards the well being of others. Many drugs have potential side effects, but devastatingly dangerous conditions that could result from the use of a drug must be clearly disclosed to the consumer through appropriate warnings. If Merck did, in fact, know about the connection between Fosamax and the death of jawbone tissue and did not change its labeling to clarify or warn of this potential consequence, negligence only scratches the surface of this company’s problems.
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Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.