Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fosamax News (Bone Loss Drug) - Merck's Next Litigation Problem?

Fosamax made the news last week.

Fosamax is a drug indicated for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) in men and women. A study recently linked the use of bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax with osteonecrosis of the jaw. It is frequently referred to as "jaw death." Merck makes this drug.

Osteonecrosis is a bone disease that few have heard of. Somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 people are diagnosed with this disease each year in the United States alone. You can read more about the condition here.

The condition is associated with the interference of the blood supply to the bone and the consequential damage that occurs. Osteonecrosis of the jaw can be painful and could lead to infection, breakdown of the jawbone, and ulcerations in the lining of the mouth.

From the Online Journal:

The osteoporosis drug Fosamax has been on the market for a little over 10 years now. Drug maker Merck promoted it heavily by selling women the fear of a disabling hip fracture and the necessity of regular bone-density tests. Merck's initial TV advertising campaign featured a slim woman in her mid-40s, conveying the notion that testing was appropriate for women in this age group.

n a 2004 letter published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researcher Susan Ott, MD, of the University of Washington wrote: "Many people believe that these drugs are 'bone builders,' but the evidence shows they are actually bone hardeners."

In a December 13, 2004, press release, doctors at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center announced that they had discovered a link between a common chemotherapy drug and a serious bone disease called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).

The discovery, published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, prompted both the FDA and Novartis to issue warnings to physicians and dentists about the risk for the potential adverse effect.

You can read more about the condition at that site.