Fosamax is a bone-building drug, part of a class of drugs called bisphosphonates, which are normally used to treat osteoporosis and help manage advanced cancer. Fosamax has been linked to osteonecrosis of the jaw, or death and rotting of the jaw bone.
Osteonecrosis of the jaw is a painful and disfiguring condition, which affects victims’ lives in many ways. Often losing some or all of their teeth and having portions of their jaw removed or shaved down, many patients are no longer able to chew solid food. Those suffering from osteonecrosis of the jaw can experience symptoms including:
- Pain, swelling, and infection of the gums
- Poor healing of the gums
- Loosening of teeth
- Tooth loss
- Numbness or the feeling of heaviness in the jaw
- Pain or numbness of the face
Osteonecrosis normally appears after dental work or a minor dental trauma. Fosamax stays in your system for months or years, so even those who have stopped taking Fosamax may develop the condition. Treatment typically involves long-term use of antibiotics, and sometimes involves surgery to remove the damaged tissue and sharp bone edges, but surgery is avoided whenever possible because of the lengthy recovery time and the potential to worsen the condition. Osteonecrosis is extremely difficult to treat successfully.
Fosamax is Merck’s second biggest selling drug. Merck is already facing lawsuits over Vioxx due to dangerous and life threatening side effects. A study by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently determined that Fosamax has a higher occurrence of osteonecrosis of the jaw than any other bisphosphonates. It appears that Merck delayed updating Fosamax labels with appropriate warnings in order to hide the dangers of the defective drug. Millions of Fosamax users have been exposed to the danger unknowingly.
The FDA is currently investigating reports that Fosamax may result in femur fractures. The majority of these incidents have occurred in patients taking the drug for more than five years. Generally, the femur fractures have occurred from minor impact activities such as walking.
Fosamax works by shutting down cells called osteoclasts, which reabsorb the bone. Osteoblasts, cells that manufacture bone, are not supposed to be affected. However, it appears that long term use of the drug may also impact osteoblast cells, resulting in a condition called “frozen bone,” making bones more brittle and susceptible to serious fractures.
In 2008, the FDA asked Merck to update the Fosamax warning label to address the risk of femur fractures. It took Merck 16 months to comply, although the pharmaceutical manufacturer still insists there is no link between the drug and an increased risk of bone fractures.
If you have been taking Fosamax for upwards of five years and begin to experience thigh pain, it is crucial that you consult your physician at once.
Jacoby & Meyers can Help
The experienced defective drug attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers can help you receive the compensation you deserve if you or a loved one has been injured as a result of taking Fosamax. We have the vast resources of a large national law firm, enabling us to take on the high powered legal teams employed by pharmaceutical companies.