Are osteoporosis drugs safe?

Sunday, 6 March 2016  |  Stuart

See all bone health supplements

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration in the US) believes that more research is need to assess the long term safety of taking bisphosphonates, a common drug used for treating osteoporosis.

This is due to known potential risks associated with bisphosphonates, including severe jawbone decay and unusual thigh bone fractures. The FDA is also examining a possible link between bisphosphonates and oesophageal cancer. Flu-like symptoms, heartburn, digestive upset, fatigue and joint pain are other common side effects, and oral bisphosphonates are very commonly linked to irritation in the oesophagus.

After reviewing the evidence, the FDA has suggested that many people diagnosed with osteoporosis should stop taking bisphosphonates after 3-5 years, especially those with low risk for fractures. In the meantime, more research needs to be done to assess the pros and cons of this approach.

Bisphosphonates are marketed under a number of brand names, including Fosamax, Bonefos, Bondroat and Actonel. Some are given orally, while others are injected intravenously.