Fosamax, Similar Bone Drugs, Linked To Increased Risk of Macular Degeneration: Study

The findings of new research suggest that the side effects of Fosamax and similar bone strengthening drugs may increase the risk of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

In a study published this month in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, University of British Columbia researchers indicate that the risk of wet AMD for continuous use of a class of drugs known as oral bisphosphonates was doubled when they were taken orally, and the overall risk was nearly quadrupled for Fosamax in particular.

Fosamax is the most widely used medication in this class, introduced by Merck for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, and now widely available as generic alendronate sodium. While the drug has been used by millions of individuals strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures associated with osteoporosis, it has been linked to a number of side effects, including bone fractures and osteonecrosis of the jaw.

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Researchers in this latest study looked at the FDA adverse event report system and two patient cohorts from British Columbia in Canada from 2009 to 2013. Overall, There were 6,367 cases and 6,370 corresponding controls.

Fosamax was the bisphosphonate most associated with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), with 133 reported cases, Boniva was a distant second with 20 reported cases, and Actonel was third with 14. The overall risk for Fosamax was just under four times higher for Fosamax users, 240% for Boniva users, and just under three times higher for Actonel users. The overall risk for continuous use was doubled.

“Continuous users or oral bisphosphonates are at a higher risk of developing wet AMD,” the researchers concluded. “Given the observational nature of this study and limitation of the data, future studies are needed to confirm these findings.”

Age-related macular degeneration is an eye condition that causes severe vision loss. Many older people develop the condition as a part of the natural aging process. It will often begin and affect only one eye, but may later affect both eyes. – Wet MAD can cause blood vessels to bleed and leak, eventually blurring vision.

This is not the first time that bone-strengthening supplements have been linked to the vision disorder. A year ago, a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that people who take calcium supplements also have a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. That study found that those who took more than 800 mg a day of calcium supplements were twice as likely to be diagnosed with AMD than those who did not.

Merck has faced thousands of Fosamax lawsuits in recent years, in which former users alleged that the drug maker failed to adequately warn consumers and the medical community about serious risks associated with the aggressively marketed and widely used medication. In 2013, Merck agreed to pay nearly $30 million in Fosamax settlements to resolve more than 1,100 jaw injury lawsuits, brought on behalf of individuals who experienced painful and debilitating deterioration of the jaw. The drug maker is also currently facing appeals in several thousand bone fracture lawsuits brought on behalf of individuals who experienced atypical breaks following minor trauma.

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