Fosamax is an FDA-approved drug treatment for post-menopausal osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and causes fractures in millions of women each year.
Fosamax also is the oldest and most widely prescribed drug in the bisphosphonates class, which are medications that strengthen bones by slowing their mineralization or resorption.
Recently, however, a link has been discovered between long-term use of this drug and possible risks or complications, so some doctors are advising their patients to take a drug holiday.
What Are the Concerns over Fosamax?
Some studies suggest that bisphosphonates may be associated with a condition known as osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw. However, evidence of Fosamax causing this condition is conflicting and scarce.
Some studies do show, however, that Fosamax may increase the risk of spontaneous fractures in some patients.
Concerns have been raised over these reports, as research suggests a higher rate of femur fractures in women who have taken Fosamax for more than five years. It is suspected — though not proven — that long-term use of this medication may lead to bones becoming more brittle and prone to breaking.
What Does the FDA Say About Fosamax?
Researchers at the FDA have studied long-term use of bisphosphonates and have determined that these drugs are successful at slowing the loss of bone mass. However, further investigation is necessary to determine the optimal period of time that patients should take Fosamax or other bisphosphonates.
Studies show that some women who are at a low risk for fractures may be able to stop taking Fosamax after three to five years and still benefit. This is because the medication accumulates in the body and continues to be effective after treatment has ceased.
For older patients with a history of fractures and those with low bone mineral density, it may be more advantageous to continue bisphosphonate therapy.
Should I Stop Taking Fosamax?
The FDA medication guide for Fosamax includes warnings about severe jawbone complications and unusual thighbone fractures.
Both the FDA and Merck, the manufacturer of Fosamax, are researching these issues now. However, most experts do agree that bisphosphonates, when used appropriately, have benefits that outweigh potential risks.
The problem? Currently, there is no consensus on how long these drugs should be taken or whether patients should take a drug holiday at some point.
Talk to Your Doctor before Making a Decision
Before stopping Fosamax or any medication, it is important to consult your doctor.
Based upon your medical history and individual health risks, your doctor may suggest taking a break. If you do decide to stop taking Fosamax, doctors recommend having regular bone density tests to monitor your status.
If you are taking a bisphosphonate now and are concerned about its long-term effects, call Steward Health Care: Centers of Orthopedic & Sports Medicine in West Jordan today to schedule a consultation with our professionals. We can evaluate your case and help you determine if Fosamax is the best course of action for you.