Merck has announced that it has agreed in principle to settle with plaintiffs’ lawyers in multi-district litigation over alleged side effects caused by its Fosamax anti-osteoporosis drug. In a statement Monday, the company said it is paying $27.7 million in the proposed settlement of all existing product liability cases alleging that Fosamax causes osteonecrosis of the jaw.

U.S. District Judge John Keenan (See Profile) of the Southern District of New York has tried a number of “bellwether” cases to set the parameters for settlement in some 1,200 federal cases pending over the drug, and the company has prevailed in most of those trials, with one notable exception: the $8 million verdict for plaintiff Shirley Boles in 2010 that was later reduced by the judge to $1.5 million (NYLJ, Sept. 1, 2011).

On Aug. 30, Keenan ordered that 200 cases a month would be remanded to the federal district courts from which they originated, an order sought by plaintiffs’ lawyers James Green of Ashcraft & Gerel and Timothy O’Brien of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, and opposed by defense attorneys Paul Strain of Venable and William Beausoleil and Daniel Osborn of Hughes Hubbard & Reed.