A new study suggests that sales for Fosamax and other popular bone strengthening drugs known as bisphosphonates have fallen by half over the last several years, following media reports about the potential health risks associated with the medications and coverage of lawsuits filed by former users who suffered sudden femur fractures and other injuries.
In the latest edition of the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, researchers with the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases evaluated the impact of media reports on sales for a class of bone drugs known as bisphosphonates.
Fosamax is the most widely used medication in this class, sold by Merck for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. However, in recent years, the drug has been linked to a number of different side effects, including a risk of atypical femur fractures that can occur with no trauma at all and debilitating jaw bone damage.
Researchers looked at information from a number of databases in order to estimate trends in bisphosphonate use among patients 55 and older from 2008 through 2012. . They looked at internet searches, hospitalizations and other factors.
According to the findings, use of bisphosphonates by women has dropped by 50%, and the researchers indicate that the decline has corresponded with media reports of Fosamax femur fractures.
“Our study documents a dramatic drop in osteoporosis medication use by patients,” senior author Dr. Timothy Bhattacharyya said in a press release announcing the study. “Whether it will impact the long-term bone health of the nation remains to be seen.”
Thousands of Fosamax lawsuits were also filed during the period of time examined by the researchers, many of which were widely covered by the news media. The claims were brought on behalf of former users who suffered femur fractures or deterioration of the jaw bone, known as osteonecrosis of the jaw.
Plaintiffs alleged that Merck failed to adequately research the potential side effects of Fosamax or provide sufficient warnings for consumers or the medical community about the risks associated with long-term use of the osteoporosis drug.
In 2013, Merck agreed to pay nearly $30 million in Fosamax settlements to resolve more than 1,100 jaw injury lawsuits, coming after several high-profile jury trials that were widely covered by the media.