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The Associated Press October 3, 2011, 4:56PM ET

Merck reports fourth win in Fosamax litigation

Drug maker Merck said Monday it won a fourth court case brought by a patient who blamed the company's osteoporosis drug Fosamax for jaw and dental injuries.

A jury in New York ruled in the company's favor against a Florida woman who said she experienced jaw problems after using Fosamax, a bisphosphonate drug prescribed to strengthen bones of women with osteoporosis, a chronic condition that causes bones to weaken and break.

Merck said the verdict was the company's fourth victory out of the five Fosamax lawsuits that have been brought to trial. In the second Fosamax case to be tried to jury, a jury awarded the plaintiff $8 million. That amount was later reduced to $1.5 million, and Merck is appealing the verdict.

The Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said about 1,650 cases, which include approximately 2,050 plaintiff groups, had been filed and were pending against Merck in either federal or state court.

A study published in the Journal of Dental Research in February found oral bisphosphonate drugs like Fosamax can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis occurs when blood flow to the bone is reduced for an extended period of time, generally more than six to eight weeks.

The study found a rate of less than a tenth of one percent and was based on a review of 572,606 patient records.

Merck has said that there were no cases of osteonecrosis of the jaw in any clinical trials of Fosamax.

Kaiser Permanente estimates about 4.7 million Americans are taking oral bisphosphonate drugs. Generic versions of Fosamax, or alendronate, reached the market in February 2008. Before that, the drug was a multibillion-seller for Merck.

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