Osteoporosis Lawsuits Allege Femur Fractures, Jaw Bone Death & More

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Osteoporosis lawsuits regarding Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, Zometa and Aredia allege femur fractures, jaw bone death and more. Have you been injured? If so, an osteoporosis injury lawyer can review your situation and determine whether you might be entitled to compensation so that you can decide whether or not filing an osteoporosis lawsuit is in your best interests.

Osteoporosis Femur Fractures

Litigation on osteoporosis femur fractures continues – especially after an ABC news program revealed the serious risks associated with these osteoporosis drugs known as subtrochateric femur fractures.

The femur bone is the strongest bone in the human body and typically doesn’t fracture unless there’s significant injury or trauma. Patients who use bisphosphonate drugs such as Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, Zometa, and Aredia and have been on these drugs for prolonged periods of time – between three and five years – are suffering low energy femur fractures. In many cases, the injury is caused spontaneously when the patient has not experienced a significant injury or trauma.

Fosamax injury lawyers say that published information suggests that once these drugs were approved, the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) required manufacturers to conduct long term studies to determine the risks of suffering from a femur fracture. However, manufacturers never did these studies. Now, independent studies are confirming that there is indeed a significant risk from long term use and exposure to these drugs.

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Osteoporosis Jaw Bone Death

In addition to subtrochateric femur fractures, long-term exposure to bisphosphonate drugs also increases the probability of developing osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ – also known as avascular necrosis, aseptic necrosis, ischemic necrosis or jaw bone death. ONJ is a bone disease which affects approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Americans each year. It commonly results from a temporary or permanent loss of blood flow to the bones which causes bone tissue to die and the collapse of the jaw.

Risk of Bisphosphonate Drug Injuries Resulting in “Drug Holidays”

As a result of bisphosphonate drug injuries, many doctors are recommending that patients take a drug holiday. Basically, they’re saying that you shouldn’t stay on these drugs for longer than five years in order to let your body become unexposed to these drugs for awhile and then re-assess whether or not going back on the drug at a later point is necessary.

Medical experts say that osteoporosis drugs have a very slow half life. So, the half life for a drug such as Fosamax is approximately ten years. What that means is that it stays in your body from between ten and twenty years before it metabolizes out of your system.

Patients who are on the drug for five years, then get off of it, are still at an increased risk of injury because of the slow metabolization of the drug in the body. Unfortunately, drug manufacturers don’t seem to be recommending that their patients go on a drug holiday as they certainly have incentive not to. It’s important for bisphosphonate patients to realize this and watch their bone density levels, which can be done through very simple tests at most doctors’ offices. If a patient’s bone density shows severe osteoporosis, then getting on – or continuing to use – the drug may be in their best interest until they can get their bone density to a safe level – and then get off the drug.

Many Bisphosphonate Drugs also Prescribed for Osteopenia

Many of these bisphosphonate drugs are not just prescribed for osteoporosis, but also for osteopenia – which is basically pre-osteoporosis. However, Fosamax injury attorneys believe that none of these drugs are especially effective and that more and more serious and dangerous osteoporosis side effects are being linked to them such as ONJ and femur fractures described above.

It seems ironic that these drugs are prescribed to prevent these types of injuries, yet they are increasing the risks of suffering from them. The truth of the matter seems to be that drug manufacturers have done a very good job at marketing these drugs to consumers, yet have failed to do adequate studies or warn consumers about the serious side effects and risks.

What’s even more ironic is that, until these drugs were on the market, there wasn’t even a condition known as osteopenia, or pre-osteoporosis. However, these bisphosphonate manufacturers were able to convince the FDA to allow them to prescribe the drug to individuals with “osteopenia.” The end result has been a bevy of bisphosphonate injury lawsuits – especially over Merck’s Fosamax.

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Fosamax Lawsuits

There are many bisphosphonate drugs on the market, including:

  • Actonel – made by Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi Pharmaceuticals
  • Boniva – made by Roche Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline
  • Didronel – made by Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals
  • Fosamax – made by Merck & Company
  • Reclast and Zometa – made by Novartis Pharmaceuticals
  • Skelid – made by Sanofi Pharmaceuticals

However, Merck & Co. is defending the largest number of Fosamax lawsuits concerning ONJ and femur fractures, which have been fairly extensive on the federal level. Here’s an update on each:

  • Fosamax ONJ lawsuits. Fosamax ONJ lawsuits have been consolidated as a multi-district litigation before the Honorable Judge Keenan in the New York Southern District. So, any case filed in federal court that claims an injury of osteonecrosis of the jaw is essentially transferred to the Southern District of New York for pre-trial purposes. At the present time, there have been about four trials in the MDL for osteonecrosis of the jaw. One of those cases resulted in an $8 million verdict to the plaintiff.
  • Fosamax femur fracture lawsuits. Most of the femur fracture lawsuits have consolidated in New Jersey state court in front of the Honorable Judge Carol Higbee. Among other things, they allege that while the FDA notified Merck & Co. of this problem in 2008, Merck waited 16 months to add the risk of femur fractures to its list of potential Fosamax side effects, placing many patients at additional risk without cause. There have not been any trials to date.

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