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Merck sued in New Jersey court over osteoporosis drug

Most businesses make or produce some sort of product or service. When a business sells a product to the public there is the risk that the product could cause injuries to consumers. When this happens, business litigation — specifically a product liability suit — is likely to arise.

A New Jersey court has recently had to delay a product liability suit against Merck & Co. over its sale of the osteoporosis drug Fosamax. Fosamax came onto the market in the United States in 1995. Merck made an estimated $3 billion on the drug per year until 2008 when its patent protection expired. However, Merck has been sued by a variety of former users who claim that over time the drug caused femur fractures and jaw problems.

In the recent New Jersey suit, the first time the case went to trial it resulted in a mistrial and was the first lawsuit over femur fractures. The second trial date had to be pushed back after the plaintiff — a woman who had formerly used Fosamax — suffered from a “serious health complication.”

In the case, the woman claims that Merck knew that the drug could cause bone weakening if used for long periods of time, especially for patients that didn’t already have osteoporosis. Yet, the woman claims, the company still pushed the product. Merck, on the other hand, claims that all warnings about the medication were disclosed. Furthermore, the company argues that the Food and Drug Administration continually approved its use.

In order for a product liability suit, like this one, to be successful, the plaintiff must show that there was some sort of defect in the product that made it unreasonably dangerous. This can be a design defect or a manufacturing defect, among others. Without showing unreasonable danger the company is not likely going to be held liable for damages.

In the cases against Merck, the company has already won five out of the seven jaw cases. A new date for this case has been set for early April.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, “Merck’s Fosamax on Trial Again After First Case Halted,” Erik Larson, April 3, 2013

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