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Concerns About Osteoporosis Drugs

Another controversy involves the use of bisphosphonate drugs to treat osteoporosis. Medications such as Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax and Reclast are supposed to reduce the risk of broken bones. A new study from Sweden published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that while such drugs may indeed increase bone density and reduce the risk of hip and spine fractures, they are also associated with an increased risk of atypical fractures of the thigh bone.
The researchers examined more than 1200 X-rays of women over 55 years old who had a thigh-bone fracture. Of these, 59 were atypical. The women who suffered atypical fractures were 47 times more likely to be taking a bisphosphonate medicine. The investigators emphasized that the absolute risk of an atypical fracture remains low, even among women taking bisphosphonates, about 5 in 10,000 patient years. This should be taken into account when women and their doctors are deciding how long a drug like Fosamax should be taken.
[New England Journal of Medicine, May 5, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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