Merck & Co., Inc. Hid Fosamax's Bone-Weakening Risks, Lawyer Contends

Published: Mar 13, 2013

Merck & Co. (MRK) officials hid the risks that its Fosamax osteoporosis drug could weaken bones and lead to femur fractures, a lawyer told a New Jersey jury in the first case raising such claims to come to trial. Merck researchers ignored signs that extended use of drugs known as bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax, caused femurs to deteriorate in patients such as Christina Su, said Karen Menzies, one of Su’s lawyers, today in opening statements of the trial of the woman’s claims over the drug. Merck officials have said in securities filings that they face more than 3,300 lawsuits alleging Fosamax caused such fractures. To ramp up Fosamax sales, Merck officials “disregarded safety risks” and pushed the drug for women who weren’t suffering from osteoporosis, Menzies said. The trial in state court in Atlantic City comes more than a month after Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck said it expected profit to decline this year because of generic competition to its top-selling drug Singulair and research setbacks that slowed efforts to get new medicines to market. Merck officials contend Fosamax didn’t cause the 67-year- old Su’s femur fracture and the company properly warned doctors and patients about the drug’s risks. Christy Jones, a lawyer for Merck, told jurors today that Menzies had no evidence to support claims Merck turned a blind eye to Fosamax’s safety problems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration repeatedly approved the medicine as safe and effective for women worried about bone-density loss, Jones said. ‘Fragility Fractures:’ Merck’s lawyer also said Su’s medical records showed her bones were strengthened by her Fosamax use and that she fell into the category of women who were at risk for “fragility fractures.” Medical evidence that will be presented in the four-week trial will show Su “suffered the same kind of fracture” suffered by women who didn’t take Fosamax, Jones said in her opening statement.

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