Fosamax is drug maker Merck's brand name for the generic drug alendronate. Fosamax was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for increasing bone density in patients prone to osteoporosis and similar conditions. Fosamax is a type of drug called bisphosphonates, which also includes other prescription medications such as Actonel, Boniva, Zometa, Didronel, and Aredia.
Since Fosamax was introduced to the US market in 1995, however, the serious side effects of Fosamax have left many patients injured and led to a number of lawsuits against Merck for their failure to sufficiently warn doctors and patients of the dangers of the medication. It is alleged in some lawsuits that Merck was aware of these dangers and actively sought to conceal information about the possibly devastating side effects associated with Fosamax.
Since 2001, over 2,400 patients taking Fosamax and other bisphosphonates have reported a serious condition called osteonecrosis, also known as jaw death. Another 120 bisphosphonate users reported having suffered from such severe bone, muscle, and joint pain that they are bedridden or require aids such as wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches.
Side Effects of Fosamax and Other Bisphosphonates
Marketed primarily for prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, and in stronger form, for treatment of cancer patients, bisphosphonates were touted as bone-building and strengthening agents. However, recently evolving information seems to show that these drugs have little benefit in terms of preventing bone breakage, and in fact, may make bones more brittle and prone to breaking, particularly with long term use.
Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is a serious condition in which the bone tissue in the jaw becomes damaged, causing infections, painful swelling, tooth loss, and degradation or even loss of the jaw bone.
Symptoms of osteonecrosis of the jaw include:
- Numbness and heaviness of the jaw
- Gum infections, pain, and swelling
- Loose teeth
- Slow healing of the gums
If you have been taking Fosamax or any other bisphosphonate medication, and you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. While the condition is often permanent, it can be treated and managed with early intervention.
A letter to the editor published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in 2003 alerted dental professionals to the suspected link between osteonecrosis and bisphosphonate medications. In 2004, the same journal published a report on 63 patients who had developed ONJ, six of whom had taken Fosamax.
Data showing the severity and extent of the side effects has prompted action by the FDA and by some pharmaceutical manufacturers, such as drug company Novartis, which produces a high dose, intravenous bisphosphonate used for chemotherapy patients.
As a result of this information, the FDA issued a warning in September of 2004 to alerts health care professionals to the risks of serious, and often permanent, osteonecrosis of the jaw.
What You Can Do
If you or someone you love has suffered from osteonecrosis of the jaw, extreme bone, joint, or muscle pain, or any other serious side effects as a result of taking Fosamax or other bisphosphonate medications, you may deserve compensation for your damages.
To learn more about how to preserve your rights under the law, consult with an experienced pharmaceutical injury attorney in your area.
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