Osteocronosis & Fosamax Is There A Correlation?

by Terry Bryant

Fosamax and osteonecrosis of the jaw, or ONJ, have been linked together several times in various research publications. This medication produced by Merck is an extremely popular drug for treating osteoporosis and other bone disorders. However, its mechanism of function makes it more likely to cause ONJ, a degenerative bone disorder that cause painful lesions, inflammation, and secondary infections. If left untreated, the mandibular or maxilla bone will eventually become exposed, leaving the patient susceptible to life-threatening complications.
The main ingredient in this medication is alendronic acid. Alendronic acid is an inhibitory substance in the body that prevents the resumption of bone tissue by osteoclasts. Bone resumption is a natural process that is tightly regulated in the body, but may be problematic in people with bone density diseases. By inhibiting the resumption of bone, density levels and mineral content are preserved, preventing the slow erosion of the tissue.

This becomes a problem, though, when damaged or diseased bone tissue is not absorbed quickly enough because osteoclasts have been disabled. Damaged bone tissue will eventually cause problems, and may provoke an immune response that results in further complications. Fosamax may cause osteonecrosis of the jaw well after initial dosing, because it has a long active half-life in the body (about 10 years).

This serious complication was addressed in over 1,000 lawsuits filed against Merck. A Florida jury awarded about $8 million to a victim after ONJ destroyed her jaw. The jury determined that the medication was, by design, particularly dangerous, and that Merck should have made more of an effort to alert people and doctors to its effects. Anyone who has taken this medication and suffered from ONJ should consider speaking to a personal injury lawyer about their rights regarding representation.