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FDA Questions Long Term Use of Popular Osteoporosis Medications

Every year in the United States almost 1 million people are diagnosed with a disease in which the bones become weak and more likely to break. The illness is called osteoporosis and although there is no cure there are medications that you can take that help to increase bone density and reduce the risks involved but are these commonly prescribed drugs safe?

A recent article on Health Day dated September 9, 2011 explains that the Food and Drug Administration is not sure about the long term use of bisphosonate drugs like Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva and Reclast.

Biophosonates are drugs that are taken by millions of post menopausal women in order to prevent the loss of bone density but they have been linked to fractures of the thigh bone, esophageal cancer and death of the jaw bone in some long term users prompting the FDA to open an investigation questioning the safety of long term use of these types of drugs.

Dr. Elizabeth Shane, past president of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research and professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York who is scheduled to testify says, "while these side effects shouldn't be downplayed, "when you consider the number of very dangerous, lifeıthreatening fractures that are prevented by these drugs, the benefits dwarf the side effects,"

"However, she continued, " bisphosphonates should only be prescribed to those at the highest risk of fracture. "In the past we might have used them in people who aren't at such high risk of fracture in the hope that they would prevent fractures down the line," she said. "We have moved to targeting people at high shortıterm risk, which means in the next five to 10 years."

The FDA is asking the committee to consider if current data supports the use of the drugs for long term use and whether a time limit should be placed.

"I am really not in favor of putting a limit on use of bisphosphonates and dictating the use of drug holidays," Shane said. "We have very little evidence to support the use of drug holidays or no drug holidays."

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