USA Today reports that the risks of a certain group of drugs called bisphosponates was highlighted in two studies. Bisphosponates, which is used to treat patients with osteopenia and osteoporosis, is a popular group of drugs. The risks of prolonged use of the drugs ironically, is that it may cause a patient's bone to fracture. There have been reports that patients using these medications have fractured their femur bone doing low impact activities such as taking a walk.
The irony is that instead of helping patients, the drugs may actually make the condition worse. Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser, chief of orthopedic trauma surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York told USA Today: "That's the paradox. These drugs are good drugs. They strengthen bone and protect you from fractures for a while. But in some people they can become deleterious after a period of time."
Some patients are upset over what they view has been an omission by the drug companies about the risks of taking such bisphosphonates over a long period of time. Ms. Stephanie George, a patient who took Fosamax for eight years, told ABC News: "People like Sally Field are pushing Boniva, which is the same damn thing and people are listening and saying, 'Oh, I should really be on that.' The ads say if you are small-boned or tall or white, you may get osteoporosis, but I am all three. People think that's all there is and they don't know the other side of the story. They don't know what the side effects are."
According to ABC News, Fosamax was linked to osteonecrosis in 2004, but Merck failed to add that to its warning label until 2005. Merck prepared a statement that read: "Nothing is more important to Merck than the safety of its medicines. As part of our commitment, Merck closely monitors post-marketing data and reports that information to FDA and other regulatory agencies."
While there are these risks, researchers who conducted these studies still maintain that there are short term benefits for taking bisphosphonates. The Los Angeles Times Blog quotes Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser of Columbia University Medical Center as saying: "Bisphosphonate use is still a very effective solution that prevents bone loss in most patients and no one is recommending that physicians avoid prescribing these. However, as baby boomers age and continue to remain active, it is important that we conduct more research and develop sustainable, safe and effective treatments for osteoporosis."