Fosamax Causing Merck More Problems Than Vioxx

Before jurors awarded John McDarby $4.5 million in his federal lawsuit against Merck last week, the stock price of the former Vioxx manufacturer had climbed 14 percent. Immediately after the verdict, however, Merck's value dipped 3 percent. But, that was long before yesterday's punitive award.

With some 10,000 lawsuits, and counting, in the pipeline, business analysts estimate the damage Merck did to its Vioxx customers may cost them anywhere from $20-50 billion before it's all over...

But those estimates didn't take into account a new lawsuit Merck's faces, citing negligence in promoting its second-leading drug, Fosamax, a drug I first warned you about eight years ago. The lawsuit, filed in Ft. Myers, Fla., argues Fosamax is a dangerous product because it can cause osteonecrosis, a condition that causes your jaw bone to rot and decay.

Fosamax's existing labeling, the plaintiff says, provides no adequate warning of the drug's side effects. Why? It's a member of the nitrogenous biophosphonate family of drugs used for chemotherapy that have been associated with osteonecronosis. (By the way, the newer drug, Boniva, is in the same class of drugs as Fosamax, and isn't all that different...)

With Vioxx, Merck can get away with a lot of hogwash and say many things can cause heart attacks, not just Vioxx. But, with Fosamax, osteonecrosis of the jawbone is not caused by smoking or eating French fries.

Oral surgeons and many dentists started noticing this link five years ago. Last month, the American Association of Endodontists issued a position statement recommending that dental surgeons should check whether patients are on Fosamax and if so to look for this condition. This has become so common that dentists are now referring this condition as fossy jaw.

Merck grosses $3 billion -- that's with a B -- dollars a year from this deceptive scam. And, just think, some analysts believe Fosamax could be a bigger problem for Merck than Vioxx.

Yahoo News April 12, 2006

CNN Money April 6, 2006

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