Q. I have been on Fosamax for approximately eight years and have NEVER been told it should not be taken so long. I am 62 years old and have always worked out to stay healthy and strong.
I fell last year and broke my femur, close to the hip! This concerns me, since I had hoped the osteoporosis medicine would prevent broken bones and I fear that it has contributed instead.
I also have a friend who is 55 and ended up with a broken jaw after a dental procedure. She broke her tibia this winter and also has been taking Fosamax. Please share this information.

A. We’re sorry to learn of your traumatic experience. Drugs like Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax increase bone density, but long-term use may alter the quality of bone.
At a recent meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, researchers presented data suggesting that after four or five years of treatment some bone may lose structural integrity and become brittle. The FDA is reviewing data to determine whether these drugs contribute to atypical femur fractures.
We are sending you our Guide to Osteoporosis so that you and your doctor can discuss other options for building bone strength.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Cynthia J.

    I took fosamax for seven years. Aug. 28, 2012 taking a step backwards my right femur broke. It has been a very traumatic experience. I am 61 and was very active. I am now taking bone health supplements and trusting god to take care of me. I just started back to work. My Dr. said this was the fasted healing of a femur break he has seen. We give god the credit and praise.

  2. PJ

    I’m 68. Dr. tells me I have osteoporosis and my bone density was a 4 or something. “Not good,” he says. Wanted to give me the Reclast Infusion and I declined. Now wants to give me two shots a year of “something” which I think started with the letter P. Does anyone know what it is? It is new on the mkt. I will check with him to find out for sure what it is.
    Any comments on this? Thank you.

  3. SR

    Please tell me what alternatives there are to Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, etc. that work differently to build bone?

  4. Greg Pharmacy Student

    Drugs are not without risks. Right now I think people are TOO trusting of medications. Even birth control is not with out SERIOUS risks (increased blood pressure, change in eye color, change in sex drive, increased risk of fatal blood clots). Of course pregnancy is not without risks either.
    See: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/birth-control-pill/WO00098

  5. Margaret

    You should never take drugs unless you absolutely have to… every drug has a wanted effect and many other effects that are unknown and may greatly vary depending on what other medication that you are on. Your body drives for homeostasis… if you take a drug and it is in excess in your body then your body no longer needs to produce it, throwing off many delicate chemical balances of your body.
    The body is very complicated and no doctor or drug company has a 100% certainty on exactly how your body will react to medications and they have even less of an idea of how drugs interact with each other….. so unless the risks are huge not to take the drugs… the risks of unknown side effects may not be worth it.
    If you are a woman or child your risks are even greater since historically medications are tested on males. I believe that is changing.
    Buyer Beware….never take a drug without reading up on its effects and side effects and never take unless absolutely necessary!

  6. AW

    Yes, I am aware of Fosamax and drugs like that, that cause bones to break because of Dr. John Lee’s books on Menopause and Brest Cancer. His research shows that what the pill does is it keeps the bone from replacing new bones cells and take away the dying bone cells.Not letting the dying ones go causes brittleness. It also has a 15 year half life in the body. Check his website out dr.johnlee.com — He has been an advocate for women and getting the truth out on synthetic hormones. I think this info is in his Breast Cancer book.

  7. SNH

    Reports of femoral fractures associated with these drugs seem to be becoming more common.
    Jaw necrosis is a long known possibility, but thought to be so rare that the benefit outweighed the risk. Medicine is increasingly statistically driven, so we are given drugs based on population risks. That’s little comfort if you happen to be one of the “rare” ones, isn’t it?
    In the future, there may be ways to genetically identify people who are likely to benefit (or have untoward effects) from a given drug. But that’s a long way off.
    Meanwhile, there’s little incentive for a doctor not to prescribe them. In fact he/she could be sued for not doing so if they are a recognized standard. Our system encourages them to stick to statistics.

  8. SNH

    PS Anna:
    These drugs do NOT work as “glue”. That seems to me a totally erroneous and misleading way to describe them.
    They work by slowing the turnover of bone cells (all cells naturally die off and are replenished–the idea behind these drugs was to slow the process so fewer cells were lost, I believe).

  9. SNH

    I believe you’ll find that boniva and fosamax are exactly the same class of drugs and have the same mechanism of action. I am suspicious of your doctor’s description of the differences and would do more research if I were you.

  10. Carolyn

    I am 74 years young, have taken Fosamax for a few years, and have taken Evista. But I had side affects with both, my esophagus started closing up, making it hard to swallow, my lower jaw just ‘receded’, and muscle aches in my legs. I do have osteo, have known it for about 8 years. My doctor stresses the importance of these drugs, but I refuse to take any more. I now rely on a natural tablet that has calcium,vitamin C, D, and various minerals.
    And I take extra D and C along with other vitamins; and use a natural progeserone from a health store. I exercise regularly, walk daily and am not on any prescribed medication. I have never broken a bone (other than my little toe), I try to keep limber. I am a retired secretary, so had a sedentary lifestyle for years, but now I know better.

  11. Greg Pharmacy Student

    Linda F.,
    Too bad once osteoporosis sets in it’s too late to do much about much it either. Exercise to maintain strength, balance and a healthy weight.

  12. Harold T Chicago,IL

    A few comments on Fosamax.
    My mom was on Fosamax and broke one hip one year and 10 months later broke the other hip, both while in a nursing home and diagnosed w/osteoporosis. My research (and the companies literature states) the drug may cause brittle bones.
    Fosamax is supposed to help increase bone density, but that bone is very brittle, it does not strengthen current bones. My mom was under the care of a geriatric specialized doctor, one you believe would have the best interests of their patients and knowledge of drug contraindications.I would caution anyone from taking Fosamax due to the known hazards and lack of action by the FDA (Force Drugs on Americans or Forced Drug Advertiser).
    Drug companies should not be allowed to advertise without presenting as much time/content to the faults of the drug as they do telling us how glorious our lives will be once we take their drugs.

  13. kc

    I fell in the shower on 6/1/09 and fractured my left femur. Next day I had a titanium rod put in. I had been on Fosamax since it came on the market for osteoporosis. A bone scan detected a stress fracture in my other femur so I had to have that one rodded also, or live in fear it too would break.
    It has been a very traumatic experience. Why take a drug to prevent fractures when it causes fractures? My surgeon has seen many cases like this. I spent 5 months housebound, had many rounds of PT, rehab, learned to walk again (twice) pain, which I still have, and walked with a walker, and then a cane. Not to mention the expenses. I am 73 years old and was a very active, fast walking person. Now I am lucky I can walk, and get tired easily.

  14. Linda F.

    Many years ago, my mother, now in her eighties, was prescribed Fosamax. She DID take it according to the instructions, but I warned her about side effects I’ve heard about at the time, some by very well-known nutritional practitioners. I warned her about digestive/stomach problems and also vision changes, including cataracts that were reported. She ignored me, thinking her doctor had her best interests at heart for her.
    So, she did end up in the hospital with stomach problems, and she needed two cataract operations. It was very distressing for her. By the time you think, oh no, those side effects will effect other women and not me, it’s probably too late to reverse the damage.

  15. Greg Pharmacy Student

    Anna K,
    Misinformation has run rampant as usual. Neither Fosamax nor any of the familiar drugs for osteoporosis have been removed from the market. Please find out what you T-score is, do you have osteoporosis or osteopenia?
    If you have neither then your MD is recognizing that arthritis is a risk for osteoporosis. Once you have osteoporosis you can not reverse it; it must be prevented.
    Please consider taking Vitamin D most of us are deficient and this also makes bones stronger. Don’t forget to exercise.
    Sometimes all it takes is directly asking your MD for some sort of natural (non-drug) solution to your health problem. They are doctors not mind readers.
    See this review of Vitimin D from Web MD: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

  16. Anna K.

    A few months ago my arthritis doctor prescribed Boniva for my bones. Willingly, I took it, until my children did extensive research and what they discovered was alarming. So much so, that I would not gamble with my body to take it.
    Yesterday, during an appointment with the (same) doctor, I explained what my children has learned, and that I had canceled the prescription. He then told me about the problems with Fosamax. However, he claimed that Boniva is safe for the body. Using a replica of our bone structure, he detailed what would eventually happen to me, if I did not use Boniva. But also said that the reason for reported problems was because patients failed to follow directions, e.g., not taking the recommended dosages of vitamins C and D, which build bones, while Boniva acts like a “glue” that then holds together the bones. I also have no cartilage between the vertebrae in my lower back, which he said would make it worse.
    I was convinced and wrote up the report of my visit, and sent it to my children. My daughter-in-law then sent me the information listed on this site. I want to trust my doctor, but I also acknowledge this is a Rx drug, the latter being the operative word. At 75 years young, do I let my health take me where it will? I think until a better alternative comes along, I shall wait.
    I am so very, very sorry for the health related tragic happenings to the people who have provided their histories. Thank you. And I wish for you that you would find a doctor who want to help you, and not the drug companies, should that be the trend.

  17. Jesse (Barbara)

    Carolyn, your comment was sent to me. Drug companies pay doctors not to “know” about osteoporosis drugs causing fractures and osteonecrosis of the jaw. So keep spreading the word. The FDA is right now reviewing these drugs, but the drug companies have much control over FDA. It will take a group such as Public Citizen Health (see their web site) to remove these dangerous drugs from the market. They are too profitable. Public Citizen is responsible for removing several drugs.
    I am so sorry to have osteonecrosis of the jaw. I fear it very much because I have had 30 radiation treatments to my mouth and jaw. Before they did the radiation the dental oncologist at MD Anderson told me she had to pull ALL my teeth, although they are all in perfect condition. I kept all my teeth! Much of medical treatment is just to make money and of no benefit or dangerous for the patient. Beware.
    Barbara in Houston

  18. Jesse

    I am 70 years old and have osteopenia. I also have hyperparathyroidism with adenomas. I had surgical menopause at age 31. Five years ago I had 30 radiation treatments to my mouth and jaw because of very aggressive squamous cell cancer tumor in my upper lip with aggressive perineural invasion (removed the tumor surgically.)
    When I had radiation I was warned I could get osteoradionecrosis of the jaw, my jaw crumbing and my teeth decaying and falling out. I was told to use a mouth tray with 1.1% sodium fluoride every night for five minutes for the rest of my life.
    Now every doctor I go to immediately wants to put me on osteoporosis meds. The latest one keen to this is head of endocrinology at Methodist Hospital in Houston, he wants me to take a once yearly chemo intravenously of Reclast. He says he has never heard of any side effects or problems with osteoporosis drugs. Is he ignorant or lying?
    Do doctors put everyone, no matter how dangerous the osteoporosis drug is for the patient, or how useless, on these expensive drugs? Is it for the money from drug company kickbacks and perks or is it because the doctors are totally ignorant of the dangers? They are not insisting on these osteoporosis drugs for the benefit of the patient.
    Doctors prescribe the most expensive newest antibiotic, never an old antibiotic that is cheaper and more likely to be active against an infection because the cheaper drug isn’t used much any more. And what internist or cardiologist starts a new high blood pressure patient on Hydrochlorothiazide first? No, it is the $250+ a month heart med with no generic. Going to most doctors is like going to a drug salesman for your medical treatment. Medical consumers beware. Drug companies get prescription print outs by computer from drugs stores to know which doctors are prescribing their expensive pills and the doctors are rewarded accordingly.
    Gifts and trips are given to doctors.
    The medical clinics and large practices in Houston and elsewhere are provided lunch one day a week by drug companies. Doctors stuff their faces, often in view of the patiently waiting patients, letting everything stop while the doctors chomp on the free food. One of my doctors who hated such bribes took me to the room containing food laid out by the drug company and told me to load a plastic bag from the treatment room with all I could carry and feed it to my dog. I told him my dog ate better food than that! It was cookies and cake, chips, carbonated drinks, luncheon meats and American cheese that is mostly artificial.
    Too bad he has now retired and moved back to the Boston area. Now it is difficult to find an honest, competent doctor. Most have hidden agendas that are not to the benefit of the patient. The fancier the title, the worse the doctor. A pathologist told me he goes to doctors with small offices and no fancy titles. No chief of this, director of that, etc. No flock of residents of fellows trailing behind him.
    Titles are usually for doctors who are ego-maniacal political animals.
    Not much evidence things are going to get better.

  19. Greg Pharmacy Student

    Not everyone should be on medications for osteoporosis. More evidence suggests that Vitamin D may be just as important as Calcium intake. Other factors play a large part.
    Educate yourself and find out your 10 year risk of a fracture using the FRAX Calculator: http://www.shef.ac.uk/FRAX/
    Click “CALCULATION TOOL” at the top of the screen.

  20. Carolyn

    I took Fosamax for approx. 10 years and stopped about 4 years ago. But now I have Osteonecrosis of the jaw or onj. I have lost two teeth from this. This is a very little known side effect of Fosamax and other drugs of that type. Now they are giving a very brief warning that jaw problems can result from taking foxamax.
    Too little, too late. I have to be very careful with what happens in my mouth now not to loose any more teeth. This should be publicized more.

  21. MM

    I had the same experience as the writer — a femur break in the same place. I should not have put put on fosamax in the first place since there was no evidence of osteoporosis or osteopenia — simply post-menopause. From my extensive research I expect that there will be a class action suit.
    You may wish to file a report with the FDA on your case. I was just 56, very fit and running daily when this occurred. Unfortunately the complications still limit some of my activities and pain is intermittent but often present after two surgeries. Do make a report. It may help others as well as yourself.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.