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Bone drugs may cause fractures, FDA warns

Federal health officials are warning that patients taking drugs designed to prevent broken bones may, paradoxically, be at increased risk for certain unusual fractures of the thigh bone.

The Food and Drug Administration issued the warning Wednesday to patients taking drugs known as biophosphonates, which are widely used to treat the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.

The FDA is requiring that durg companies add a warning to the labels of Fosamax, Fosamax Plus D, Actonel, Actonel with Calcium, Boniva, Atelvia, Reclast and Boniva.

Sally Field in a 2009 ad for Boniva. (Youtube)

"While it is not clear whether bisphosphonates are the cause, atypical femur fractures, a rare but serious type of thigh bone fracture, have been predominantly reported in patients taking bisphosphonates," particularly those taking the drugs for more than five years, the FDA said in a statement.

The agency is evaluating the safety and effectiveness of bisphosphonates for long-term osteoporosis treatment, said Sandra Kweder, deputy director FDA's office of new drugs in the center for drug evaluation and research. "In the interim, it's important for patients and health-care professionals to have all the safety information available when determining the best course of treatment for osteoporosis."

The FDA stressed that patients taking bisphosphonates for osteoporosis should not stop using their medication unless their doctor tells them to. But they should report any new thigh or groin pain to their doctor so they can be evaluated for a possible thigh fracture, the agency said.

By Rob Stein  | October 13, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Aging, FDA, Women's Health, drug safety  
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That is irony, not paradox.

Posted by: hesaid | October 13, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Merck is actually in the right here. Rheumatologists are well aware of these atypical fractures, but you won't find any rheumatologist who believes the risks of bisphosphonates outweigh the benefits.

These fractures are extremely rare. The kind of fractures that bisphosphonates prevent are all too common.

Posted by: JenDray | October 13, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

As many seniors suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis, and other bone diseases, I think it is wise to educate the senior population on the effects of these bone drugs and their effects.

Posted by: GeriCareFinder | October 13, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Be sure to get a second opinion if you're diagnosed with osteoporosis. Have an endocrinologist verify the findings. My wifes radiologist diagnosed osteoporosis; when her endocrinologist looked at the scan he saw no evidence of it. You don't want to take these drugs if you don't have to. For more discussion on health issues, go to

Posted by: Jeff37 | October 15, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

My aunt who is 60 and is in good health has been taking this drug for several years. Within the last 2 years, she has fallen and each time broke her femur, a different leg each time.

Posted by: cmv1 | October 18, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

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