Bisphosphonate drugs Fosamax, Boniva not right for women in “pre-menopause”

Women suffering from osteopenia, often referred to as pre-menopause, should avoid taking bisphosphonate drugs like Fosamax to prevent bone loss in most circumstances.

Consumer Reports magazine’s team of medical experts issued this advisory when questioned about the use of these prescription drugs that are almost ritually taken by women who’ve entered menopause. Fosamax, and others like Boniva and Actonel, they say, provide no clinical benefits to women before they enter menopause. Further, these prescription drugs, taken by millions of women across the country, put people at risk of serious injury due to some painful side effects.

The magazine’s recent “Ask the Pharmacist” segment noted that there is little evidence to suggest that bisphosphonate drugs provide benefits to women prior to menopause, especially in the prevention of bone loss. Women who’ve entered menopause commonly take a drug like Fosamax to stem the effects of osteoporosis, marked by bone loss that could lead to bone fractures.

Ironically, one of the side effects of taking bisphosphonate drugs is the risk of suffering an atypical fracture of the femur bone, one of the most difficult in the body to break. Those who’ve been taking bisphosphonates for longer periods of time or at high doses face a risk of their femur bones turning porous, almost sponge-like, a condition that is likely to result in a painful fracture requiring long periods of physical rehabilitation.

Bisphosphonate drugs for non-menopausal women should only be considered when a person is already suffering from the effects of osteoporosis. Taking the drugs too early is only likely to result in a person taking a bisphosphonate drug for longer periods of time or at higher doses, increasing their risk of suffering the side effects of them rather than see many benefits. Bisphosphonates like Fosamax and Boniva have also been linked to dangerous and painful side effects like ulcers of the stomach and esophagus, eye inflammation, muscle and joint pain, and fractures and deterioration of the jawbone. That condition could worsen into osteonecrosis of the jaw, which could require major surgery to correct.

There is no shortage of marketing vehicles driving sales of these drugs to women. Bisphosphonates are pitched by celebrity endorsers on television, Web, and print advertisements and often gloss over the side effects these drugs while prominently promoting their purported benefits. Consumer Reports’ experts agreed that this class of drugs does “moderately” reduce the risk of women suffering osteoporosis-related bone fractures and bone loss but that physicians and patients, alike, should be caution in prescribing or taking the drugs, especially for long periods of time.

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