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Fosamax Side Effects


Fosamax, also known as alendronate, is a prescription drug used for bone loss, but has been implicated in the serious necrosis of the jaw and other bones, a condition known as “osteonecrosis” – also called “bone death.”

Fosamax, manufactured by Merck & Company, is a bisphosphonate medication used to increase bone mass, reduce bone fractures, and prevent and treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. However, cases of osteonecrosis (involving the jaw) have been reported in patients treated with bisphosphonates. The majority of the reported cases are in cancer patients who are having, or have had, a dental procedure.

With osteonecrosis, 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 can eventually lead to infection and fracture, and may require long-term antibiotic therapy or surgery to remove the dying bone tissue. Experts say that prevention and early treatment of individuals using bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax, is extremely important in preserving the jaw bone. Individuals using Fosamax or other bisphosphonates should attempt to avoid tooth extractions and other major dental work while using the drug.

The discovery of the Fosamax-osteonecrosis connection was first published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in May 2004. That information prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require that all bisphosphonate labels mention osteonecrosis. Other drug companies updated their labels to include the warnings in 2004. To date, Merck has not included the warning on its Fosamax label.

Bisphosphonates remain in the bone indefinitely.


Symptoms of bone death in the jaw include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Infection of the gums
  • Loosening of the teeth
  • Poor healing of the gums
  • Numbness, or a feeling of heaviness in the jaw
  • Exposed bone

Fosamax can also irritate the esophagus, and care must be taken in order to avoid such irritation. Recently, researchers discovered that taking Fosamax in combination with the popular arthritis drug Naproxin may increase the risk of developing stomach ulcers.

A recent study by the University of Washington has produced evidence that Fosamax may be related to heart irregularities. The study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, warns of the risk that Fosamax may cause patients to develop atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is a disorder which involves chronic irregular heartbeat that can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, fainting, and may create blood clots and lead to stroke.

The study arose after research linked another drug in the same class, Reclast, with causing heart irregularities. Reclast is giving intravenously once a year, while Fosamax is taken in pill form weekly.

The researchers compared the health records of 719 women who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation between 2001 and 2004 against those of 966 women who had never had the condition.

Among the atrial fibrillation patients, 6.5 percent had taken Fosamax, compared with 4.1 percent in the other group. Researchers calculated that women who had taken Fosamax were 86 percent more likely to have atrial fibrillation than if they had never taken it. Fosamax users who were diabetic or taking statins to lower cholesterol were among the most likely to develop irregular heartbeat.

Contact your doctor if you have experienced serious side effects associated with Fosamax. In addition, it may be important to contact a Raleigh Fosamax attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. Please keep in mind that there may be time limits within which you must commence suit. If you have been injured by Fosamax, you may be entitled to compensation. The Raleigh Fosamax lawyers of Hardison & Cochran have defended those injured or killed because of harmful prescription drugs. We know that the success of each case depends upon the network of experts in the medical and legal field who can work with a firm and the case during its investigation. We look forward to meeting you and discussing your claim. Please know that we appreciate very much the trust you have placed in our firm.

Hardison & Cochran serves personal injury and accident victims throughout the state of North Carolina, including, but not limited to, Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Fayetteville, NC.

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