No prescription drug is completely safe, because every drug comes with the risk of some side effects. It is important for pharmaceutical companies to disclose all relevant information about the dangers of a drug so that patients can weigh the benefits against the possible side effects and make an informed decision.
If pharmaceutical companies intentionally withhold important information about dangerous drugs, they may be subject to personal injury and pharmaceutical liability lawsuits when the truth finally comes out.
Recently, a New York trial against Swiss drug company Novartis ended in a $10.45 million jury award to the plaintiff. In 2006, the woman filed a complaint against Novartis alleging that the drug Zometa, which had been taking during treatments for breast cancer, had ultimately caused osteonecrosis of the jaw. In plain English, this means she suffered bone death in her jaw.
The woman’s attorneys were able to provide the jury with some damaging pieces of evidence. A 2003 email from a Novartis marketing employee warned of a “quite damaging” report that linked Zometa to jawbone complications such as osteonecrosis. A later email from the same employee detailed plans on how to prevent or mitigate the damage caused by the report. The email said: “In summary: we’ll try to avoid that the paper is ever published; we will be ready to react in case it gets published.”
Based on this evidence, it seems clear that Novartis tried to conceal important information about potential Zometa side effects. As such, the plaintiff and other patients were unable to make an informed decision about taking Zometa, and they suffered serious health consequences as a result.
This case is one of only eight Zometa-jawbone cases that have gone to trial. Of the eight cases, four have resulted in victories for the plaintiffs. Hopefully, more injured victims will be able to successfully hold Novartis accountable in court.