Georgia Federal Court Grants Summary Judgment to Novartis in Aredia/Zometa Case

October 31, 2011

Judge William Duffey of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted summary judgment in favor of Firm client Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation in a case alleging that plaintiff’s treatment with Novartis’s drugs Aredia and Zometa caused osteonecrosis of the jaw (“ONJ”).  Eberhart v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., No. 1:08-cv-2542-WSD, slip op. (October 31, 2011, N.D. Ga.).

The court said that plaintiff offered no evidence that Novartis’s alleged failure to warn of the association between Aredia and Zometa and ONJ proximately caused any of her alleged injuries.  Plaintiff had argued that the extraction of her molar tooth numbered 19 precipitated the problems she had in her jaw.  She contended that, if Novartis had properly warned her oncologist and dental healthcare providers about the increased risk of ONJ caused by dental extractions while taking Aredia and Zometa, she would have had endodontic therapy rather than have the tooth extracted.  Novartis offered evidence, in the form of a declaration from an endodontist that treated Ms. Eberhart, that endodontic therapy was not an option.  Novartis argued, therefore, that the extraction could not have been avoided even if Ms. Eberhart’s oncologist and dental health providers had been aware of the association between Aredia and Zometa and ONJ. Judge Duffey concluded that Novartis had offered evidence negating the plaintiff’s argument that the tooth could have been saved through endodontic intervention and noted that plaintiff had failed to offer any evidence that endodontic therapy was a viable option.  Absent any evidence that the extraction could have been avoided, the court held that the alleged failure to warn did not proximately cause the injury because the extraction that plaintiff claimed precipitated her ONJ would have been required even if all of the health care providers in the case had been aware of the alleged increased risk of ONJ in persons treated with Aredia and Zometa after an extraction.  As a result, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Novartis.