This week a terrific victory was achieved by plaintiff Peggy Stevens of Missouri in her quest to hold Novartis responsible for covering up the dangers of their osteoporosis drug Zometa. Like Fosamax and other bisphosphonate-drugs, Zometa can cause a condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw, particularly when the patient undergoes invasive dental procedures (tooth extractions, root canals, etc.). The jury of 12 deliberated for eight hours over 2 days in the Missoula District Court before concluding that Novartis was responsible for $822,000 in lost income and $2,378,000 in non-economic damages (pain, mental anguish, inconvenience, etc.), for a total verdict of $3.2 million.
Ms. Stevens showed the jury that Novartis hid relevant information and failed to appropriately and reasonably warn patients of the drug’s dangers. The only warning about osteonecrosis of the jaw was given in a 20-fold pamphlet inside the drug’s box, in tiny print. Look at the picture—is this something that should not be front and center? Additionally, internal company e-mails revealed that the company worked to suppress information on the dangers.
There are about 550 other Zometa lawsuits, most of them consolidated in an MDL in Tennessee federal court, and the others grouped in New Jersey state court. The next Zometa trial is scheduled for March 2010 in New Jersey. Many expert witnesses will be the same in these trials.