Actonel, Other Bone Drugs, May Lower Colon Cancer Risk: Study

According to the findings of a new study, popular osteoporosis drugs, such as Actonel and Fosamax, may actually decrease the risk of colon cancer. 

Canadian researchers say that women given the bisphosphonate drug Actonel were only half as likely to develop colorectal cancer as women who were not taking the medications or who had just started treatment. The findings were published online in the medical journal Cancer and come less than a month after the FDA warned that some of the bone drugs may be linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Researchers looked at the medical records of nearly 60,000 patients and found that those taking Actonel were 45% less likely to develop colorectal cancer. There was not enough data available to determine whether men received the same benefit and while researchers say that other bisphosphonates could also decrease colon cancer risk, the data they collected only showed a significant reduction of risk in those taking Actonel.

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Actonel (risedronic acid) is an osteoporosis drug developed and marketed by Sanofi-Aventis and Warner Chilcott. It is approved for bone strengthening treatment and the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis and Paget’s disease.

Actonel and other bisphosphonates have come under scrutiny recently for potential ties to low-impact femur fractures and esophageal cancer. The FDA issued a drug safety communication at the end of July saying that there was enough data to launch a review, but there is conflicting data on the issue.

The study comes just weeks before an FDA advisory committee is scheduled to meet to evaluate the risks associated with long-term use of Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva and Reclast. On September 9, the committee will investigate whether the risk of jaw problems and bone fractures are due to long term use of the drugs and whether there should be a recommended duration for their use. While the committees recommendations are not binding on the FDA, the agency usually follows the guidance of their outside experts.

Long-term use of oral bisphosphonates has previously been linked to an increased risk of serious and debilitating jaw problems, known as osteonecrosis of the jaw. The condition causes the jaw bone to decay and rot, often resulting in the need for surgery to remove portions of the jaw.

Hundreds of Fosamax lawsuits over jaw problems have been filed against the drug’s maker, Merck. At least one case has resulted in a jury awarding $8 million last year, after finding that Merck failed to adequately research the potential Fosamax side effects or warn about the risk of jaw necrosis.

More recently, a growing number of Fosamax fracture lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individuals who suffered spontaneous femur fractures, which often occur with little or no trauma at all.


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