Residents of various states across the country have filed a complaint in St. Louis Circuit Court against the makers of a drug used to treat osteoporosis, claiming the medicine caused them to develop bone fractures.

A total of 16 people filed a lawsuit May 1 against Merck, Sharp and Dohme; Barr Pharmaceuticals; Barr Laboratories; Teva Pharmaceuticals; Watson Pharmaceuticals; Watson Laboratories; Mylan; Apotex Corporation; Sun Pharma Global; Sun Pharmaceutical Industries; and Watson Pharmaceuticals.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege they sustained long bone fractures, weakened or brittle bones, multiple stress fractures or low energy femoral fractures as a result of taking the drug Fosamax or its generic counterpart, Alendronate Sodium. Both are considered biphosphonates, which are used to treat bone conditions such as osteoporosis or Paget's disease, according to the complaint.

However, the drugs hinder the development of patients' bones rather than help the conditions, the suit states.

"Because Fosamax and Alendronate Sodium severely suppress bone turnover, bone remodeling and primary mineralization are inhibited," the complaint says. "Secondary mineralization of existing bone, however, continues to occur. This results in an increase in the tissue mineral content of the bone, which translates to an increase in bone mineral density. Increased BMD does not necessarily correspond with reduction of fracture risk. Additionally, through the biphosphonate mechanism of action, bone becomes highly mineralized, homogenous, brittle, and more susceptible to fracture."

When people stop taking Fosamax and Alendronate Sodium, the drugs continue to affect their bones years later. In fact, according to one study, bone turnover was inhibited by 50 percent even five years after patients stopped taking the medication, the plaintiffs allege.

The defendant companies, which manufactured the drugs, knew of the dangerous effects of the medication, but hid their knowledge, according to the complaint. This may be because Fosamax was Merck's top-selling drug, which averaged more than $3 billion per year before the generic version became available in 2008, the suit states.

In addition to their injuries, the plaintiffs experienced pain and mental anguish, sustained a diminished enjoyment of life and endured physical impairment and disfigurement, the complaint says. They also claim they incurred lost wages and a diminished earning capacity and incurred medical costs.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege defective design, failure to warn, negligence, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, fraudulent misrepresentation and negligent misrepresentation against the defendants.

They are seeking a judgment of more than $425,000, plus costs, attorneys' fees and other relief the court deems just.

Douglas T. Dowd and William T. Dowd of Dowd and Dowd in St. Louis and John J. Driscoll of The Driscoll Firm in St. Louis will be representing them.

St. Louis Circuit Court case number: 1222-CC-2286.

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