Popular osteoporosis drugs triple risk of bone necrosis

Jan 15, 2008

A University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute study has found that a popular class of osteoporosis drugs nearly triples the risk of developing bone necrosis, a condition that can lead to disfigurement and incapacitating pain.

The research is the largest study of bone necrosis and bisphosphonates, a class of drugs used by millions of women worldwide to help prevent bone fractures due to osteoporosis. It is also the first study to explore the link between bone necrosis and specific brands of bisphosphonates, such as Actonel, Didrocal and Fosamax. Researchers found that all three brands had similar outcomes.

Bone necrosis, a relatively rare disease diagnosed in approximately 1 in 20,000 people per year, leads to permanent loss of blood supply to the bones. Without adequate blood supply, the bone tissue dies and causes the bone to collapse. The disease primarily affects shoulders, knees and hips at the joints, causing severe pain and immobility.

Published online by the Journal of Rheumatology today, the findings follow a recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration alert about bisphosphonates that highlighted the possibility of severe and sometimes incapacitating bone, joint and/or muscle pain in patients taking the drugs. (To view the FDA alert, visit: www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/bisphosphonates/default.htm>.)

According to the American Dental Association, more than 190 million prescriptions have been written for bisphosphonates worldwide. The drugs are promoted in direct-to-consumer advertisements on U.S. television stations.

“The message for women taking these medications is to pay attention to your pain,” said principal investigator Dr. Mahyar Etminan of the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation at UBC and VCHRI. “Given the widespread use of these drugs, it is important that women and their doctors know the risks that come with taking them.”

Etminan cautions that bisphosphonate use may increase in the future as the possible link between estrogen use and breast cancer prompts women to switch from estrogen therapy to bisphosphonate therapy to prevent osteoporotic bone fractures. Another reason may be the availability of new bisphosphonates that come in once-a-month or once-a-year doses.

The epidemiological study, a collaboration between UBC, VCHRI and McGill University, is based on the health records of 88,000 Quebec residents from 1996 to 2003. The team undertook the research after academic papers began linking necrosis of the jaw with the use of bisphosphonates.

“This is particularly important work,” said Dr. John Esdaile, professor and head, Rheumatology, UBC and scientific director, Arthritis Research Centre of Canada located at VCHRI's Centre for Hip Health.

“Although the osteonecrosis side-effect is rare, the use of the bisphosphonates is very common,” Esdaile adds. “People taking bisphosphonates are now hearing about the potential side-effects, and this study result will permit physicians to better inform them what the order of magnitude of the risk may be.”

Source: University of British Columbia

Explore further: More than a quarter of emergency contraceptives in Peru falsified or substandard

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

FDA warns of fractures with osteoporosis drugs

Oct 13, 2010

(AP) -- Government health officials warned doctors and patients Wednesday about an increased risk of thigh fractures with a widely used group of bone-strengthening drugs.

New materials with potential biomedical applications

Nov 21, 2013

Bisphosphonates are a group of compounds that have become well-known and are extensively used as drugs for treating bone-related diseases, such as osteoporosis. New uses for bisphosphonates were discovered, as their ability ...

Curry spice could offer treatment hope for tendinitis

Aug 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A derivative of a common culinary spice found in Indian curries could offer a new treatment hope for sufferers of the painful condition tendinitis, an international team of researchers has shown.

Common bone drugs may reduce colon cancer risk

Feb 16, 2011

An international team of researchers has found that the use of bisphosphonates - drugs already taken by millions of healthy women to prevent bone-loss - for more than one year was associated with a 50 percent reduction in ...

Recommended for you

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

Apr 17, 2014

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Drug watchdog urges vigilance in cancer drug theft

Apr 17, 2014

Europe's medicine watchdog urged doctors Thursday to be vigilant in administering the cancer drug Herceptin, vials of which had been stolen in Italy and tampered with before being sold back into the supply chain.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Scientists make critical end-stage liver discovery

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers in the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy has discovered a molecular pathway that could be key to creating new therapeutics that would slow or even reverse ...

Solving cancer's secrets

Some fathers play ball with their sons. Or take them fishing. Chuck Perou's father took his son to his pathology lab to show him how a pathologist conducts tests and runs experiments. Perou, a nature junky ...

Harm-reduction program optimizes HIV/AIDS prevention

(Medical Xpress)—New research from UC San Francisco and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation has found that clients participating in a harm-reduction substance use treatment program, the Stonewall Project, decrease their use ...

Meth mouth menace

Something was up in Idaho. While visiting a friend in Athol, a small town north of Coeur d'Alene, Jennifer Towers, director of research affairs at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, noticed ...