Quoted from http://www.missoulian.com/news/local/article_5d78c28c-bc70-11de-bac4-001cc4c002e0.html
Verdict in Missoula woman's lawsuit against drugmaker could have national significance
By TRISTAN SCOTT of the Missoulian | Posted: Monday, October 19, 2009 6:45 am
A lawsuit against a Swiss pharmaceutical company went to trial last week in Missoula, but a verdict in the case could have national significance for hundreds of plaintiffs suing the company in a mass tort.
Peggy L. Stevens of Missoula filed suit against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. last year, alleging the company was professionally negligent when it failed to disclose health risks associated with one of its medications.
Stevens, who has lymphoma, developed severe dental and jaw-related problems after taking Zometa, a bone-strengthening medication manufactured by Novartis. Her attorneys say the company knew patients taking Zometa were vulnerable to a degenerative jaw disorder called osteonecrosis, particularly those patients who undergo invasive dental procedures, like root canals or tooth extractions.
Doctors in Missoula administered Zometa to Stevens intravenously for about three years before she had a tooth pulled and developed the disease. Its symptoms include pain, loosening of teeth, exposed bone and infection.
"Instead of disclosing concerns about this relationship [between dental work and the jaw disorder] in a timely fashion, Novartis focused on obscuring the causal relationship, delaying disclosure and controlling the public relations fallout that would occur from the disclosure," attorneys wrote in a pre-trial brief.
Stevens' condition is incurable and will result in lifelong disability, according to the lawsuit. Her case went to trial on Oct. 13 in Missoula District Court and closing arguments will likely begin on Tuesday.
On a national level, Novartis faces lawsuits from approximately 550 plaintiffs whose cases have been consolidated in a Tennessee federal court and a New Jersey state court. The first of those cases is slated for trial in March 2010.