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Fosamax Femur fracture

Several factors are merging to usher in a new era of caution surrounding the medications. One is the simple acknowledgment that some people are approaching 10 to 15 years of continuous use.

“Worldwide, it’s a commonly discussed question as to how long you should go on with these treatments,” Eastell said. “Beyond 10 years, we have no knowledge of how these treatments work.”

Added to that, several potential risks from long-term use have recently arisen.

In rare cases, people taking bisphosphonates – which include Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel and Reclast – can develop jaw necrosis, a condition in which the jawbone begins to deteriorate. And a study published in September in the British Medical Journal found that people who take bisphosphonate drugs for several years have a slightly higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Experts don’t know why the drugs would increase the cancer risk, although they are known to irritate the esophagus in some people.

Of most concern, however, is that long-term bisphosphonate users can develop rare and unusual fractures in the thigh bone, or femur. A 2008 study first linked long-term use of the medications to femur fractures, and other research has confirmed the link. On Oct. 13, the Food and Drug Administration announced it will now require bisphosphonate drugs to carry information on their labels describing the risk of rare femur fractures.

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