Merck & Co has won another legal battle concerning Fosamax after a jury in New York dismissed claims that the osteoporosis drug was to blame for causing a woman’s dental and jaw-related problems.

The plaintiff, Louise Maley, who had used Fosamax (alendronate) for almost eight years, claimed that she suffered osteonecrosis of the jaw as a result of using the drug. However the jury unanimously backed Merck after finding that the plaintiff did not suffer from the condition as of March 31, 2004.

Representing Merck, lawyer Christy Jones said “we believe the company acted properly”. She added that “unfortunately, the plaintiff had multiple medical conditions that cause people to develop the jaw and dental problems she claims she has, regardless of whether they were taking Fosamax”.

Merck presented evidence in the ‘bellwether’ trial that it “acted appropriately in researching and developing Fosamax and in monitoring the medicine after it was placed on the market”. This is the second Fosamax case to go to trial and the first resulted in a mistrial that is set to be retried on June 2.

The company noted that as of December 31 last year, some 978 cases, which include 1,356 plaintiff groups had been filed and were pending against Merck in either federal or state court.

Meantime, Merck says it has restructured its alliance with Ariad Pharmaceuticals and acquired all development and marketing rights to their experimental oncology agent ridaforolimus.

The agreement, which updates the original pact signed in July 2007, will see Ariad get an upfront fee of $50 million and reimbursement for expenses it has incurred on ridaforolimus since January 1, 2010, about $19 million. The company could also receive up to $514 million in regulatory and sales milestones, including $65 million associated with the potential sarcoma indication which is currently in Phase III, plus tiered double-digit royalties.

At the start of the collaboration, Merck paid out $75 million upfront and since then has coughed up $53.5 million in milestone payments for the initiation of Phase II and III trials of ridaforolimus, an oral mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) inhibitor. Ariad chief executive Harvey Berger said the restructuring “represents the culmination of over a year of negotiations with Merck” and has “greatly strengthened our balance sheet”.