Osteoporosis Drug Femur Fracture Risk Found in New Study

The findings of new research appear to provide more evidence linking popular osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax to an increased risk of atypical femur fractures, which can occur with little or no trauma at all. 

In a letter to the editor published by the New England Journal of Medicine on September 4, researchers from Linkoping University and Uppsala University in Sweden wrote that in some cases, giving patients Fosamax or similar drugs may carry a risk that outweighs the benefits provided by the osteoporosis drug.

Researchers reviewed radiographs of 5,342 women and men ages 55 or older who were diagnosed with a femoral shaft fracture. They identified 172 patients with atypical femur fractures and compared them to data on medication use since 2005.

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The study found that users of the bone drug Fosamax were at double the risk of such fractures as those who took Actonel, but that all bisphosphonate medications increased femur fracture risk. The researchers determined that women face three times the risk of atypical femur fractures when taking bisphosphonates when compared to men who use the bone drugs. Researchers also found that the risk increased for women the longer they use Fosamax.

Bisphosphonate Fracture Risk

Similar determinations by other researchers have led to the FDA issuing recommendations last year suggesting patients limit their use of Fosamax to a three to five year period.

A study by researchers from Loyola University Health System published in January recommended bisphosphonate medication users take a ‘drug holiday”, or a break from using the drug, to lessen the risk of femur fractures and other bone problems.

In November 2013, researchers published a study in the medical journal Calcified Tissue International, which indicated that the increased risk of bone fractures with Fosamax and other osteoporosis drugs may have a genetic factor to explain why some users experience these atypical breaks in circumstances that would not normally cause a femur fracture.

The Swedish researchers who conducted the latest study said the findings should push doctors to be certain they prescribe Fosamax and similar drugs only to patients that truly need them.

“There are long-lasting skeletal accumulation of bisphosphonate, but ongoing use seems to be the dominant risk factor for these rare fractures,” the researchers concluded. “Oral bisphosphonates might do more harm than good if given to patients without an evidence-based indication, and the evidence base for treatment over many years is weak.”

Fosamax Femur Fracture Lawsuits

Merck currently faces about 1,000 Fosamax femur fracture lawsuits from patients who took the osteoporosis drug and said they experienced rare atypical thigh bone breaks.

The complaints allege that Merck knew or should have known about these risks long before the warnings were provided, and claim that if adequate information had been provided to users and the medical community plaintiffs could have avoided suffering complete fractures on Fosamax by avoiding the medication or stopping use earlier.


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