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Judge refuses to dismiss Fosamax case, sets trial

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge refused on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Merck & Co Inc's osteoporosis drug Fosamax caused jaw damage to an Indiana woman during the nearly eight years she took the pill.

U.S. District Judge John Keenan described the case involving plaintiff Louise Maley, 69, as one of the "bellwether" trials in nationwide litigation over Fosamax, which has spawned close to 900 lawsuits. The judge is handling many of the cases.

Merck had submitted a motion for summary judgment, seeking to dismiss all claims filed by Maley, who resides in Muncie.

He set an April 19 date for a jury trial to decide whether Fosamax had caused the woman's severe jaw pain and other jaw problems.

"We are prepared to vigorously defend the company," a Merck spokesman said, adding the evidence will show that Fosamax did not cause Maley's jaw problems and that Merck provided appropriate and timely information about Fosamax to doctors and regulators.

Keenan in November dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Fosamax causes jaw damage, two months after a jury deadlock led to a mistrial in a similar case.

Fosamax is part of the bisphosphonate family of osteoporosis drugs that include Procter & Gamble Co's Actonel and Roche Holding AG's Boniva. The drugs are designed to prevent bone fractures and help offset bone loss associated with menopause.

Fosamax once generated about $3 billion in annual sales, but its revenue has plunged since cheaper generics became available in 2008.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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