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Merck says it won its 5th Fosamax lawsuit

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (AP) -- Merck & Co. said Wednesday it won another lawsuit brought by a patient who said the company's osteoporosis drug Fosamax caused jaw problems.

Merck, which faces more than 2,300 lawsuits connected to Fosamax, said it has won five of the six Fosamax-related lawsuits that have gone to trial.

In the latest instance, a New Jersey court found in Merck's favor. The lawsuit was brought by a woman who used Fosamax between 2002 and 2008, and who blamed the drug for jaw problems and complications that followed the removal of four of her teeth in October 2007. Merck said the woman had evidence of significant infections that required invasive dental procedures and had conditions that impaired her healing after surgery. The company said it acted responsibly in developing Fosamax and monitoring its use after approval.

The patients suing Merck say they developed jaw and dental problems including osteonecrosis of the jaw, or rotting of the jawbone, after using Fosamax. The condition occurs when blood flow to the bone is reduced for an extended period of time.

Merck said the lawsuit was the second case to go to state court in New Jersey as part of coordinated litigation on Fosamax. The company said it also won a series of four trials in a New York U.S. District Court in 2010. A separate case in New York resulted in a verdict for the plaintiffs and against Merck. The plaintiff's award was reduced to $1.5 million, and Merck plans to appeal the verdict.

In 2011, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research said a study published in a medical journal links Fosamax to osteonecrosis of the jaw. The complication occurred in less than a tenth of 1 percent of patients.

Fosamax sales peaked at $3.2 billion in 2005, but Merck's sales declined after cheaper generic versions reached the market.