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Every patient must weigh the benefits her osteoporosis medication against the potential side effects that the drug can cause. Patients who are taking Fosamax have an especially difficult decision to make since the drug is effective at treating the serious condition of osteoporosis but at the same time has been linked to creating serious, painful and even fatal conditions in patients.
What Side Effects are Associated with Fosamax?
There are a number of side effects associated with Fosamax. Some Fosamax risks are relatively mild and fairly common with many prescription drugs. Those types of side effects include nausea, constipation, abdominal cramping and other gastrointestinal problems.
However Fosamax has also been linked to several serious side effects. One of those side effects is esophageal cancer. The January 2009 New England Journal of Medicine reports a finding by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that 23 incidents of esophageal cancer (cancer of the esophagus) have been linked to Fosamax from 1995 to 2008. Eight of the 23 patients have died from the esophageal cancer.
The study did not find a link between other oral bisphosphonates that are used to treat osteoporosis and esophageal cancer. Only Fosamax had the connection. Some patients, and physicians, believe that this news is significant enough to use other oral bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis. However, some physicians argue that 23 cases in 13 years are not significant enough to warrant a change in prescription habits. Yet, the risk of a potentially fatal cancer might be serious enough to scare some patients in to asking for different prescriptions.
Another serious side effect associated with Fosamax is the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw. This condition also known as "dead jawbone disease" causes the bone in the jaw to die. The link between Fosamax and jaw bone loss is acknowledged by the American Dental Association and dentists. This condition is very serious and very painful. Treatment can be very difficult, especially if the osteonecrosis was brought about by the use of an osteoporosis drug. The potential for this serious and painful condition may lead some patients to stay away from oral bisphosphonates such as Fosamax.
Finally, in April 2008 the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that patients who take Fosamax had an 86 percent change of developing an irregular heartbeat. Other studies refuted that finding and the percentage of patients who suffer an irregular heartbeat as a result of taking Fosamax may not be that high. However, the public relations damage was done and many patients remember that study and choose not to take Fosamax based on that information.
Will Patients Stop Taking Fosamax Because of the Risks?
That is a difficult question to answer since there is so much recent news about the most serious side effects of Fosamax that has yet to be accounted for in prescription rates. However, a quick internet search indicates that both long time users of the drug and potential new patients are concerned and will be speaking to their doctors about alternative osteoporosis treatments. The potential for serious, life changing and even life ending conditions is likely to scare patients and to lead some physicians to recommend alternative treatments for osteoporosis.
For patients who have not stopped taking Fosamax and who experience a Fosamax injury such as those discussed above, the only recourse may be to file a Fosamax lawsuit with a well qualified Fosamax lawyer.