Study: Bone-strengthening drugs could backfire

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams—March 10, 2010

The class of drugs designed to strengthen bones could have the opposite effect, according to recently released studies. The negative effect is present in only a very small percentage of patients.

Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva are widely used to counter the bone loss that leads to osteoporosis, mostly in older women. Two studies presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggest that in a small portion of patients who used the drugs for over five years, the drugs could have an opposite effect: increasing the rate of a rare hip fracture.

“A small subpopulation could get a fracture from just walking across the street. It’s a brittle bone disease,” said Joseph Lane, M.D., an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

The FDA says it is looking at the effects of the drugs. But it advises that people who are taking them not stop unless their doctors advise it. The research is still preliminary.

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