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Jury orders Merck pay $8 million Fosamax damages

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A jury on Friday awarded $8 million in compensatory damages to a Florida woman who sued Merck & Co, alleging the company's osteoporosis drug Fosamax damaged her jaw, nine months after the first lawsuit ended in a mistrial.

Shirley Boles, 71, of Walton Beach, Florida, sued Merck in 2006, claiming she suffered dental and jaw problems because she took Fosamax from 1997 to 2006.

"Today's verdict is just the first step, but it's important because the jury found that Merck defectively designed the drug," Boles's attorney Tim O'Brien said in a statement.

Merck said in a statement that it would challenge the verdict.

A month-long trial in Manhattan federal court in August and September last year was Merck's first out of some 1,280 plaintiff groups involving almost 900 U.S. lawsuits by patients who claim Fosamax caused the condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw, or death of jawbone tissue.

The second trial that began on June 7 before U.S. District Judge John Keenan ended on Friday with a verdict in favor of Boles that the company said was contrary to the evidence presented at trial.

"Both the finding and the amount of the compensatory damages are against the weight of the evidence," Bruce Kuhlik, executive vice president and general counsel said in a statement. "We believe the evidence showed that FOSAMAX did not cause the plaintiff's injury and that it is a safe and effective medication that was properly designed."

The statement cited another verdict before the same court in May in favor of the company.

Merck shares were up 32 cents at $35.93 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The case is In re Fosamax Products Liability Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 06-1789.

(Reporting by Grant McCool. Editing by Robert MacMillan)

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