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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - (Mealey's) A New Jersey state court jury on April 18 returned a defense verdict for Merck, Sharpe & Dohme in a Fosamax jaw injury trial, the company said in a press release (Jo Ann Sessner v. Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, Inc., No. ATL-L-3394-11-MT, N.J. Super., Atlantic Co.).
Plaintiff Jo Ann Sessner took Fosamax from 2002 to 2008 to treat osteoporosis. In her suit filed in the Atlantic County Superior Court, she claimed that the drug caused her to develop stage 3 bisphosphonate-related osteonecrosis of the jaw (BRONJ), a condition in which the jaw bone dies but is not replaced by new bone growth.
"We believe the evidence showed the company acted properly, and that Fosamax did not cause the plaintiff's dental and jaw problems," Merck quoted defense counsel Christy Jones of Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens & Cannada of Ridgeland, Miss. "Unfortunately, the plaintiff had medical conditions that can result in the development of jaw and dental problems in people, regardless of whether they were still taking Fosamax. She had evidence of significant infections that required invasive dental procedures and had conditions that inhibit the body's ability to heal."
Merck said Sessner's jaw problems began after she had four teeth extracted in October 2007.
The company said it presented evidence that it acted responsibly in researching, developing and monitoring Fosamax. Bruce N. Kuhlik, Merck's executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement that "The company provided appropriate and timely information about Fosamax to consumers and the medical, scientific and regulatory communities."
Sessner alleged that Merck failed to warn her and her doctor about the risk of BRONJ and that the drug was defectively designed.
Testimony began March 5, and trial continued for 34 days. The case went to the jury on April 18, and the verdict was returned the same day.
Judge Carol E. Higbee presided.
2-For-2 In New Jersey
The defense verdict is the second for Merck in New Jersey's Fosamax mass torts docket. The first trial, in early 2011, ended in a defense verdict.
Sessner's case was initially scheduled to be tried with that of Amelia Flores (Amelia Flores v. Merck & Co., Inc., No. ATL-L-0744-09-MT, N.J. Super., Atlantic Co.). Flores' trial has been rescheduled.
Merck says the case is the sixth Fosamax case to go to trial, of which the company says it has won five. Four trials were conducted in the Fosamax multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The company said that as of Dec. 31, there were about 2,345 Fosamax cases filed in state and federal courts that include about 2,800 plaintiff groups. One case is scheduled for a retrial on damages in September.
All other cases are on appeal.
In addition to the jaw injury cases, more recent plaintiffs have alleged that Fosamax causes spontaneous fractures of the femur, or the long bone in the leg. Federal cases have been sent to their own MDL, and New Jersey cases are before Judge Higbee.
Sessner is represented by Timothy O'Brien of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Echsner & Proctor in Pensacola, Fla., and Gary Douglas of Douglas & London in New York.
Merck is represented by Christy Jones of Butler, Snow, O'Mara, Stevens & Cannada in Ridgeland, Miss., and Paul Strain of Venable in Baltimore.
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