* Judge allows testimony by two experts
* Judge rejects Merck motion for summary judgment
* Merck shares rise
NEW YORK, Sept 9 A Manhattan federal judge has
rejected Merck & Co's (MRK.N) effort to dismiss 24 cases
alleging that its Fosamax drug treatment for osteoporosis
causes jaw damage.
In an opinion released on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge
John Keenan ruled that the plaintiffs could introduce testimony
by two doctors to show that the drug can cause jaw damage after
less than three years of continuous use.
Keenan said the evidence is sufficiently reliable to allow
a rational jury to establish such a connection. He said
individual plaintiffs will then be allowed to present expert
testimony that Fosamax caused them to suffer such damage, and
that such testimony could by itself "make causation a genuine
issue of fact for trial."
The company faces a slew of lawsuits involving almost 900
cases by patients who say Fosamax caused osteonecrosis of the
jaw. A Manhattan jury is deliberating this week over the drug
company's potential liability in one such case.
"Judge Keenan did not rule that Fosamax causes jaw injury,"
Merck spokeswoman Casey Stavropoulos said. "He only ruled that
plaintiffs may attempt to prove that Fosamax causes jaw injury
in future cases."
The spokeswoman also said that Merck believed that the
court "ruled appropriately in prohibiting a large part of
future testimony" by a third plaintiff expert, Dr. Robert
Keenan's ruling said he found no basis to restrict the
"general causation" testimony of two doctor experts, Alastair
Goss and John Hellstein.
Fosamax belongs to the bisphosphonate family of
osteoporosis drugs that include Procter & Gamble Co's (PG.N)
Actonel and Roche Holding AG's ROG.VX Boniva. Merck says
Fosamax prevents bone fractures, especially in post-menopausal
women, by helping to increase bone mineral density.
In afternoon trading, Merck shares were up 50 cents at
$31.47 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The case is In re Fosamax Products Liability Litigation,
U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan),
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Grant
McCool; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)