Some osteoporosis drugs may actually cause fractures rather than preventing them. Bisphosphonates like Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax have become very popular. Commercials on television urge older women to ask their doctors for a prescription to keep their bones strong. New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that while such drugs do appear to prevent many fractures from osteoporosis, long-term treatment is associated with an increased risk of thigh bone fractures.
The investigators identified 716 elderly women with one of these relatively rare fractures and compared them to 3,580 women of the same age. Women who used bisphosphonates for five years or more had nearly triple the risk of such a fracture compared to women with only short-term use of these drugs. That said, the absolute risk is small, approximately 1 to 2 per thousand. Nevertheless, there is growing recognition that the type of bone built under the influence of bisphosphonates may not be as strong as researchers once assumed.
[Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 23, 2011]