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Osteoporosis Drugs and Unusual Thigh Fracture

Drugs that are supposed to prevent weakened bones may actually increase the risk of a rare but dangerous kind of fracture of the thigh bone. A report from the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research casts a cloud over the popular class of drugs called bisphosphonates. Drugs such as Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax and Reclast are widely prescribed to reduce the risk of hip and spine fractures. The new analysis concludes that what was once only a suspected relationship between bisphosphonates and atypical femur fractures now appears to be a clearer association. The risk seems greater in patients who have taken this type of medicine for long periods of time.

These medications work by altering the body’s system for breaking down and rebuilding bone. Studies have shown that they can increase bone mass and slow the onslaught of osteoporosis. But some researchers worry that by blocking the natural bone rebuilding process the drugs may cause brittle bones, especially over the long term. This might be behind the unusual thigh bone fractures. Anyone who experiences pain in the thigh or groin while taking such medications should report it to a doctor promptly.

[Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Nov. 2010 (Version of Record online: 25 OCT 2010)]

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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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