Novartis Jury Awards $10.45 Million for Drug, Lawyer Says

Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. was found liable by a federal jury for jawbone damage in a woman who took the drug Zometa, and she was awarded $10.45 million, a lawyer for the plaintiff said.

A jury in Central Islip, New York, returned the verdict this afternoon, several hours after they began deliberations in the case, said John Vecchione, a lawyer for plaintiff Barbara Davids.

The verdict, which couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records, is the second-largest among similar cases over Zometa, Vecchione said. It is the fourth win for plaintiffs out of eight Zometa-related jawbone cases that have gone to trial, he said. The jury in the Davids case awarded $450,000 in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages, he said.

“What’s happening is these juries are seeing very bad behavior,” Vecchione said in a phone interview. “These juries are finding this evidence particularly egregious.”

A New York-based spokeswoman for Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis, Julie Masow, said in an e-mail statement that the company is reviewing its options for appeal.

“We are disappointed and disagree with the jury’s verdict,” she said.

2006 Complaint

In a complaint filed in February 2006, Davids alleged that she developed osteonecrosis, or bone death, in her jaw after taking Zometa, a drug she had been prescribed as part of her treatment for breast cancer. Zometa, a bisphosphonate, is a treatment for bone complications that can result from cancer, according to a Novartis website.

During the trial, which began Oct. 2, the attorneys for Davids showed the jurors a May 2003 e-mail in which a Novartis marketing employee described a proposed report linking Zometa to jawbone complications as “quite damaging.” In another e-mail from May 2003 used as evidence in the trial, the employee outlined a strategy to colleagues for “next steps,” including a public relations effort.

“In summary: we’ll try to avoid that the paper is ever published; we will be ready to react in case it gets published,” the employee said in the e-mail. The e-mails were provided to Bloomberg News by Vecchione.

The largest verdict in Zometa-related jawbone osteonecrosis cases was $12.8 million, awarded to a North Carolina woman’s family in November 2010. The award was later reduced to about $1.1 million under state law.

The case is Davids v. Novartis, 2:06-cv-431, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Central Islip).

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