Stopping Zometa Use After Three Years Lowers Risk of Fracture: Study

While use of Zometa and other bisphosphonate medications have been linked to an increased risk of bone fractures, new research suggests that stopping use of Zometa after three years may significantly reduce the risk. 

Zometa (zoledronic acid) is bisphosphonate injection used to reduce bone complications associated with multiple myeloma and bone metastases from solid tumors.

Although it is part of a class of medications used to strengthen bones, side effects of Zometa and other related drugs have been linked to a risk of atypical femur fractures and deterioration of the jaw bone.

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In a study published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers found that patients taken off Zometa after three years had less risk of bone fractures. The study suggests that individuals could be kept off the drug for up to three years without seeing a significant risk of osteoporosis.

Researchers looked at data on 1,233 women who received either Zometa injections or a placebo, finding that almost 55% of women who qualify as low risk and have no recent incident of risk fracture saw lower risk of suffering a bone fracture in the future if Zometa treatment was discontinued after three years.

Concerns about the link between bone fractures and popular bisphophonate medications used for treatment and prevention of osteoporosis, such as Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva and others, led the FDA to issue recommendations in 2012 that patients limit use of the osteoporosis drugs 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 Zometa 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.

Several hundred product liability lawsuits have been filed against Novartis that allege the drug maker failed to adequately warn about the side effects of Zometa, as well as the similar injectable bisphosphonate Aredia.

Fosamax is one of the most widely used bisphophonates, which is an oral medication prescribed to millions of Americans. In recent years, Merck has also faced a number of Fosamax fracture lawsuits that allege the drug maker failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks associated with the drug.

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