June 04th 2006 - Folks, its happened again, yet another drug that has harmed the general public. We've all heard of Viox, Celebrex, Crestor and others that have been investigated and pulled from the market due to lack of appropriate testing. Here is the latest on Fosamax. Why not try a natural alternative first, before restorting to drugs and surgery!? ---Northstar Chiropractic
April 15, 2006
Fosamax Does More Harm Than Good
By Evelyn Pringle
The osteoporosis drug Fosamax has been on the market for a little
over ten years now. Drug maker Merck promoted it heavily by selling
women the fear of a disabling hip fracture and the necessity of
regular bone-density tests. Merck's initial TV advertising campaign
featured a slim woman in her mid-40s, conveying the notion that
testing was appropriate for women in this age group.
Fosamax belongs to a drug class known as bisphosphonates. Novartis's
Aredia and Zometa injections are the two intravenous versions used in
chemotherapy, and Merck's Fosamax and Procter and Gamble's Actonel
are the most commonly used oral versions of the drugs.
Bisphosphonate in tablet form is commonly marketed to prevent and
treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. Stronger forms are used
to manage advanced cancers that have metastasized to the bone. For
cancer therapy, the drugs are given intravenously, and usually for
long periods of time.
For many years, estrogen therapy was used to prevent osteoporosis,
until 2002, when a study by Women's Health Initiative said that
estrogen posed more risks than benefits. When the study revealed that
hormone therapy carried slight, but measurable, heart and breast
cancer risks, prescriptions for bisphosphonates shot up 32%,
according to IMS Health, which monitors pharmaceutical trends.
However, although Fosamax may improve bone density, experts say when
it comes to fracture prevention, its benefit is modest at best. In
fact, some researchers say that when taken for more than ten years,
Fosamax will actually make bones more brittle and thus, more
susceptible to fracture. And even if patients stop taking the drug,
doctors say it can stay in the body for up to 10 years.
In a 2004 letter published in the Annals of Internal Medicine,
researcher Susan Ott, MD, of the University of Washington
wrote: "Many people believe that these drugs are 'bone builders,' but
the evidence shows they are actually bone hardeners."
In a December 13, 2004, press release, doctors at Long Island Jewish
(LIJ) Medical Center announced that they had discovered a link
between a common chemotherapy drug and a serious bone disease called
osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).
The discovery, published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial
Surgeons, prompted both the FDA and Novartis to issue warnings to
physicians and dentists about the risk for the potential adverse
According to LIJ, "ONJ is a condition in which the bone tissue in the
jaw fails to heal after minor trauma such as a tooth extraction,
causing the bone to be exposed." The exposure, the doctors said, can
eventually lead to infection and fracture and may require long-term
antibiotic therapy or surgery to remove the dying bone tissue.
The chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at LIJ,
Salvatore Ruggiero, DMD, MD, said they conducted the study after they
noticed a cluster of cancer patients with necrotic lesions in the
jaw, a condition they previously saw, in only one or 2 patients a
In conducting a review of the patients' charts, the doctors found
that the 63 patients, diagnosed with ONJ over a 3-year period, shared
one commonality, they all had received long-term bisphosphonate
Of the 63 patients diagnosed between February 2001 and November 2003,
fifty-six were cancer patients who had received infusions of
bisphosphonates for at least a year, and seven other patients had
been receiving long-term oral therapy for osteoporosis.
"The patients developed ONJ after normal bone trauma," the press
release said, "such as a tooth extraction, while receiving
bisphosphonate therapy." Rather than healing, the bone began to die,
and a majority of the patients required surgery to remove the
Another study quoted on April 4, 2006, by United Press International,
found more than 2,400 patients who were taking the injected form of
bisphosphonate had suffered bone damage to their jaws since 2001.
In addition to the 2,400 patients who were taking the injected form,
the study found 120 patients taking the oral form of the drug who had
been stricken with such incapacitating bone, joint, or muscle pain
that some became bedridden and others required walkers, crutches or
While the number may seem small when compared to the estimated 39
million oral prescriptions written in 2005, health experts told The
Los Angeles Times that the problems may show a trend.
"We've uncovered about 1,000 patients (with jaw necrosis) in the past
six to nine months alone, so the magnitude of the problem is just
starting to be recognized," Kenneth Hargreaves, of the University of
Texas, told the newspaper.
"We're not quite sure what we're dealing with over the long haul," Dr
Susan Ott, told the Times. "Side effects like this should make
ordinary, healthy women think twice," she warned.
Christopher Loder, a spokesman for Merck, claims that ONJ with
Fosamax is "exceedingly rare."
But while this may appear to be true, experts say it is always good
to consider that at least 90% of drug side effects go unreported to
the FDA, so the actual number of people stricken with ONJ is likely
to be much higher.
In a statement, Merck said that in "all of our controlled clinical
trials with Fosamax, which involved more than 17,000 patients,
including some that were 10 years in duration, we had no reports,"
according to the April 3, 2006 LA Times.
However, a closer look at the results of Merck studies casts a shadow
on their favorable outcomes. For instance, Merck virtually controlled
everything about a 2002 Annals of Internal Medicine paper praising
the use of Fosamax. The paper's lead author was Susan Greenspan, a
Harvard Medical School professor and director of the Beth Israel
Deaconess Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center at the time.
As it turns out, Merck paid for the recruitment and participation of
all 327 clinical trial subjects; the company collected the data from
25 separate facilities; Merck employees handled "coordinating the
early phases of the study" and provided "expertise in study conduct,"
and in the end, Merck retained control and ownership of the research
Admittedly, most of these details are revealed in the Annals
article's disclosures and acknowledgments, but such qualifications
rarely appear in articles on web sites, where many people learn about
The year before Dr Greenspans paper was published in 2001, Fosamax
sales barely reached $1 billion. The following year the drug had
sales of $2.7 billion.
On April 10, 2006, a lawsuit was filed against Merck, in a US
District Court in Florida, alleging Fosamax is a defective product
because it can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw, and also alleging that
Merck concealed the drug's dangerous side effects from doctors and
The lawsuit alleges that the FDA asked Merck to add a ONJ warning to
Fosamax's label in August of 2004 and that it has yet to comply with
Merck claims it received a request from the FDA to update the label
in January 2005, and says the warning was added in July 2005.
However, the "label" referred to is actually a 22-page document that
is provided to pharmacies that fill prescriptions for Fosamax, and
the warning does not appear until page 13.
The attorney in the Florida lawsuit is seeking class action status
and the suit reportedly may represent more than 10 million Fosamax
Fosamax is Merck's second best-selling drug with revenues of $3.2
billion in 2005, according to an April 12, 2006, article by the
But analyst note that Merck is already bogged down with thousands of
Vioxx lawsuits and many estimate the total bill for Vioxx related
suits may reach between $20 to $30 billion.
However, analyst, Robert Hazlett, of Suntrust Robinson Humphrey, says
that Merck has the resources to pay damages in the tens of billions
of dollars. The company, he told CNN Moneyline, had $16.7 billion in
cash and investments on its balance sheet as of the end of December
Information for injured parties can be found at Lawyers and
Dr. Paul D. Rieselman
4513 Lincoln Ave. (Rt. 53), Ste. 212
Lisle, IL 60532