Osteoporosis, meaning porous bones, is a disease where the body does not generate new bone minerals as quickly as they are dissolved back into the body. Bones become weak and brittle and the risk of fracture from common day activities increases.
Fosamax is the major pharmaceutical drug used to treat osteoporosis. Fosamax is a bisphosphonate that works by combining with bone tissue to increase and maintain bone density thereby preventing further breakdown of bone minerals.
This is useful in treating osteoporosis, however, as part of its function, Fosamax is difficult for the body to eliminate and can remain in the system for up to ten years after discontinuing treatment.
Fosamax targets all bones in the body whether it is desired or not. Because not all bones are structurally the same throughout, this can cause problems. One adverse effect of this is osteonecrosis of the jaw where there is a loss of blood supplied to the jaw bone. This can cause the jaw bone to “die” making it brittle and ultimately causing it to collapse and need to be surgically removed. Jaw bone death is typically experienced in cancer patients who have been receiving intravenous bisphosphonates (vs. pill form) to treat cancer that has spread to the bones. Bisphosphonates, like Fosamax, prevent small blood vessels from growing, which helps starve and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, this may also starve bone cells in the process. Patients who undergo dental surgery such as a tooth extraction may also be at a higher risk due to bone exposure during the procedure.
Furthermore, a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) stated that, in very rare circumstances, bisphosphonates may cause inflammatory eye disease. Only four cases have been reported, and in all cases they were successfully treated with corticosteroids.
Additional adverse effects may include flu symptoms, irregular heartbeat, or a severe rash. The FDA also recently issued a warning that Fosamax may cause severe bone, joint, and muscle pain.
Have you been diagnosed with osteoporosis? Have you been prescribed Fosamax? If so, have you experienced any side effects? Have you found any alternatives to treating osteoporosis? Share your experiences!