Drugs to prevent broken bones can boomerang and actually cause fractures. Fortunately, this is relatively rare, but when it happens it can be devastating!
Q. I have had problems with Reclast. Last June I broke my right femur and then five weeks later my left femur fractured. The doctors said this was because of Reclast, which had been given as an annual infusion over a five-year period of time.
Three weeks ago, I had to have the screw from my femur implant removed since my right femur was not healing completely. I believe this problem was also due to Reclast.
What is being done to let the public know about the dangers of osteoporosis medications?
A. When drugs to treat osteoporosis were initially associated with osteonecrosis of the jaw (jaw bone death) more than a decade ago, many health professionals found it hard to believe. Doctors were even more skeptical when reports surfaced suggesting that people taking bisphosphonates like alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva) or risedronate (Actonel) were at increased risk for broken thigh bones (atypical femur fractures).
How, they wondered, could drugs intended to prevent fractures actually cause serious bone problems? The early reports seemed completely counterintuitive.
Over the years the evidence has grown stronger that bisphosphonates can indeed increase the risk for stress fractures. The longer people take such drugs the greater the risk.
The Boomerang Effect:
How can drugs that are intended to prevent fractures cause broken thigh bones?
A number of explanations have been offered to account for this paradox. Some researchers point out that bisphosphonates change the fundamental process whereby the body “remodels” bones.
Contrary to what you might think, your bones are in a continuous state of flux. This remodeling process constantly breaks down old bone and rebuilds new bone. The hypothesis has been offered that bisphosphonates “freeze” the bones in an unnatural way. They may appear stronger on bone mineral density (BMD) tests, but unseen micro-cracks may form that make the bones more fragile and susceptible to stress fractures.
Reclast and Atypical Femur Fractures
The drug you were taking, zoledronic acid (Reclast), is also a bisphosphonate. It is administered as an intravenous infusion once a year to treat osteoporosis.
Like the others, it too has been linked to unusual femur fractures. Once someone has broken a thigh bone in this way, there is a higher risk that the other femur may break (International Orthopaedics, June 2014). Healing may also be impaired (Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, July, 2015).
Investigators point out that such complications are relatively rare. As you have discovered, however, they can be devastating if they occur.
Other Reclast Side Effects:
Atypical femur fractures are not the only Reclast side effects to be aware of. Here are some other complications people need to know about:
Reclast Side Effects:
- Arthritis pain
- Muscle pain
- Pain in an arms, shoulder, back or legs
- Bone pain
- Fever, chills, fatigue, lethargy, flu-like symptoms
- Nausea, vomiting, indigestion, stomach pain, loss of appetite
- Heart palpitations or arrhythmias,
- Kidney damage
- Jaw bone death (osteonecrosis of the jaw)
- Eye irritation, eye damage
One of the problems of reading a long list of Reclast side effects is that your eyes glaze over after the first couple of symptoms. That is why prescription drug ads are so successful. The pharmaceutical manufacturers count on the fact that you eventually tune out to the droning voice over as people are having fun in the commercial.
Reclast Side Effect Reports from Real People:
That is why we bring you stories from people who have experienced Reclast side effects. They make the abstract complications of a medication a bit more personal.
Linda in California:
“I had a Reclast infusion in December. This is what happened to me:
“The morning after the infusion I tried to get out of bed but my legs did not work! The paramedics had to take me to the hospital; I was having seizures which has caused some memory loss.
“Since then I have severe bone pain which my doctor said: ‘Oh, it will go away; take some Tylenol!’
“I do not sleep. This drug almost killed me! I had no idea before taking this awful drug that there is no recourse as it takes a year to get out of your system!”
KBJ relates these Reclast Side Effects:
“I had my first Reclast infusion four (4) days ago and within five hours I was in horrific pain. My arms, legs, hands, hips, pelvis, sternum, ribs — my ribs hurt so badly I can’t take a deep breath!
“Swallowing is painful as my esophagus feels like someone is squeezing my throat. I began having tachycardia [rapid heart rate]. My heart rate was 124-130 and my blood pressure plummeted to 87/62.
“I don’t seem to be getting better. I’ve tried taking two (2) Percocet 10/375 mg and they don’t touch the pain. My doctor suggested I go to the hospital but I haven’t decided to do that as there is no antidote and the Reclast infusion lasts for one year!! I don’t what they can do to help me.
“I will NEVER take another dose! I’ll take calcium, vitamin D and magnesium and deal with my osteoporosis as it develops.”
Pam in New Jersey:
“I’m having terrible pain in my arms, legs, neck and spasms in my back. I’ve always been a very active person but now I can’t move without pain. I’ve had two Reclast injections, the last in June of 2015. This pain is debilitating and has taken over my life! I’m on a lot of meds for pain but nothing seems to help.”
Many people seem able to tolerate Reclast infusions without great discomfort. Others, though, experience extraordinary pain. For some the pain fades over time. Others, however, suffer a lot longer than they ever imagined.
Share your own Reclast story below or visit this link to learn more about Reclast side effects.