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]