Medications to combat osteoporosis are now being linked to bone problems and other serious conditions, such as bone death in the jaw, femur fractures and liver failure. If you are a patient who is taking a bisphosphonate such as Fosamax®, Boniva® or Arava®, talk to your doctor about the risks of these drugs and your individual susceptibility to these side effects.
If you have suffered an adverse reaction or significant side effect from these medications, you should talk to a bisphosphonate injury lawyer to evaluate your situation and determine whether you should file a claim.
Fosamax® (alendronate) is a popular bisphosphonate, marketed to strengthen bones in women over the age of 40. Introduced by Merck in 1995, this drug generated over $3 billion in annual sales before it became available as a generic in 2008. Though it was designed to strengthen bones, evidence soon revealed that long-term use of this drug actually produced the opposite effect. Women who took this bisphosphonate for five years or more started to experience odd femur fractures during normal everyday activities with no apparent cause. These fractures were especially strange as the femur bone is one of the largest and strongest bones in the body, and can typically withstand most any jolt.
In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pressured Merck about the reports of femur fractures. After a year, the drug manufacturer merely added this side effect to the list of potential outcomes when using Fosamax®.
Boniva® is another bisphosphonate, and has been shown to cause bone death in patients. Manufactured by Roche Laboratories, Inc, this dangerous medication has been linked to a condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), which causes bone tissue to die and never regenerate. It is generally discovered among patients who have undergone dental work while taking Boniva®. Symptoms of ONJ include swelling, pain, numbness and exposed bone.
When the jaw bone dies, it is impossible to repair the damage. Surgical intervention and long-term antibiotics can help treat patches of dead bone, but patients are never able to recover the bone that is lost. A study in 2006, published by the United Press, revealed that tracked ONJ in more than 2,500 patients – more than 120 of whom were taking an oral bisphosphonate.
Arava® is a drug prescribed for patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when a person’s immune system begins to attack the cartilage. The FDA approved Arava® to treat this condition in September of 1998. However, incidents of liver toxicity soon began to surface and in 2002; a petition was filed by Public Citizen consumer group to remove the drug from the market. In August of 2010, the FDA required a “black box warning” to be placed on the drug, notifying consumers about the potential side effects which include:
- Liver damage and liver failure
- Drug-induced hypertension
- Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (a life-threatening skin condition)