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Osteoporosis Drugs Linked to Atypical Breaks

Osteoporosis Drugs Linked to Atypical Breaks
Broken bone hip fracture break

Popular drugs for osteoporosis appear to pose a risk for unusual fractures. Bisphosphonates such as Actonel, alendronate, Boniva, Fosamax and Reclast have been promoted to prevent hip and spine fractures in people with weakened bones. A new study suggests, however, that such drugs may also increase the risk of unusual femur fractures. In these cases, the thigh bone breaks straight across like a piece of chalk. This can happen when person is walking. The only advance warning may be aches in the thigh.

Swiss researchers analyzed data on people with such atypical fractures. They found that the longer the patients had taken bisphosphonates, the higher their risk for these rare but serious breaks. Those who took these medications for over five years had more than 100 times the risk of an atypical femur fracture. The absolute risk remains very low, and an accompanying editorial recommends that doctors continue to prescribe bisphosphonates for people with osteoporosis. A recent warning from the FDA suggests that these drugs may need to be reevaluated after three to five years of use.

[Archives of Internal Medicine, online, May 21, 2012]

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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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