Medical, Dental Concerns About Bisphosphonates, Fosamax

American Dental Association Response to Concerns about Bisphosphonate Safety

In May 2006, the American Dental Association (ADA) posted a brief on its Web site in response to growing concerns about the safety of bisphosphonates, a popular class of drugs that boosts bone strength and has been an important treatment option for patients with cancer or osteoporosis. At the time, several news sources were discussing the link between osteonecrosis (or rotting) of the jaw and bisphosphonate use.

More recently, in December 2006, health information and news outlets have continued to report on the growing concerns of dentists, who feel ill-prepared to assist patients with serious dental health issues relating to bisphosphonate and Fosamax use.

  • Read news coverage of dentists' concerns about Fosamax and jaw bone rot.

Fosamax (alendronate sodium) Lawsuit

Several weeks before the ADA response was issued, a 60-year-old Florida woman accused Merck, a major U.S. pharmaceutical company, of withholding information about the health risks of Fosamax (alendronate sodium), a bisphosphonate taken by mouth. The woman, who filed a federal court suit, blames the Fosamax osteoporosis treatment for osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), which exposed the bone in her jaw.

Read the report that describes the details of the Fosamax ONJ lawsuit.

Intravenous and Oral Bisphosphonates

Over the last decade, bisphosphonates, which can be administered orally or intravenously, have helped millions with deteriorating bones.

  • Orally-administered bisphosphonates include Fosamax (Alendronate), Actonel, Boniva, Didronel and Skelid and are commonly prescribed as treatments for osteoporosis and osteopenia in post-menopausal women.
  • Intravenous bisphosphonates can decrease bone pain and problems in cancer patients and include Zometa, Aredia, Didronel and Bonefos.

Differentiating the Risk of ONJ

The ADA made an important distinction regarding the risks of developing ONJ. The risks are much higher for cancer patients on intravenous bisphosphonate therapy than for those on oral bisphosphonates for osteoporosis or osteopenia. The ADA reports that this may be because bisphosphonate uptake in the bones is more thorough when the drug is administered intravenously.