U.S. District Court Judge John Keenan of Manhattan made an unorthodox call in the lawsuits against pharmaceutical giant, Merck & Co. In a move that could possibly be a harsh blow to the drug company, Keenan decided to have each of the cases against Merck spread throughout several different courts across America.
What makes the decision so unusual is that most mass tort litigations are consolidated before a single judge, which makes the litigation process easier for the companies being sued. Of the 5,075 cases filed against Merck regarding Fosamax, one-fifth of them were dispersed to several federal and state courts nationwide.
“It’s a big deal as it changes the cost paradigm for Merck exponentially,” said Timothy O’Brien, a partner and Fosamax litigation attorney at Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A.
Fosamax is an osteoporosis drug that caused osteonecrosis of the jaw, or jawbone death, which is when affected tissue doesn’t regenerate, but rather suffers severe necrosis. Several lawsuits have been filed by patients suffering from weakened bones during cancer treatments, but suffered severe injuries as a result of taking the drug.
In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Fosamax to go on the pharmaceutical market. Independent studies have indicated that “there is very little benefit from taking Fosamax and other bisphosphonates over extended periods of time.”
“The pharmaceutical system in the U.S. relies upon the drug companies to accurately disclose the risks and benefits of the drugs,” said O’Brien. “Because Merck did not use the labeling tools entrusted to it by the FDA, the system failed”
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.