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Women Can Discontinue Fosamax or Alendronate Use Without Risk

(With reporting from 

A new, long-term study of the most popular osteoporosis drug, Fosamax or alendronate sodium, has found extended fracture relief for women who have taken the drug for five years. After that time period has elapsed, women with osteoporosis can discontinue drug use without increasing their fracture risk for as long as five more years after stopping treatment. 

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, published their study on Fosamax (alendronate sodium) in the December 27, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The research also showed that the fracture relief was not as strong for women at very high risk of spinal fractures, and so these women may benefit from continuing treatment. 

"This has important implications as it has not been known whether treatment of osteoporosis should be continued indefinitely," said lead author Dennis Black, PhD, professor in the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "Because women with osteoporosis, particularly older post-menopausal women, often need to take multiple drugs, this would be welcome news for this group."

According to Black, shorter term studies of up to five years duration have shown reductions in fracture risk with alendronate treatment. This was the first study to examine the effects on fracture using the drug longer than five years, he said.

"We found that women who discontinued the drug had the same rate of non-spine fractures as women who continued using the drug," he said. "However, for clinically-recognized spine fractures, usually discovered due to back pain, continuing alendronate was better than discontinuing. And, if women choose to continue, we showed that 10 years of treatment is safe."

The new findings are from a follow-up study to the initial randomized trial that examined the effect of daily alendronate, a bisphosphonate or anti-resorptive drug, on bone mineral density and fracture risk in post-menopausal women with low BMD for up to 3.8 years.

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