Fosamax is a popular drug marketed by Merck. It is used to prevent bone loss arising from osteoporosis, to help manage cancer that has spread to any bone tissue, and in treating Paget’s Disease (a condition of deformed and enlarged bones).
However it has been linked to two serious health conditions: osteonecrosis of the jaw; and esophageal cancer. The esophagus is the tube which carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
Also called Dead Jaw, is a failure of the jawbone to heal after a minor trauma. An example would be a tooth extraction, where the jawbone is exposed. An infection sets in and bone tissue begins to die. Long-term antibiotics are used to combat the infection and surgery may be necessary remove necrotic (dying or dead) bone tissue.
One of the side effects of Fosamax is inflammation of the esophageal lining, known as esophagitis. People who begin taking Fosamax are instructed to remain in an upright position for at least 30 minutes after taking each dose, to allow the Fosamax to reach the stomach as quickly as possible. Tumors may form after too much contact of the esophageal lining with the drug.
A letter was published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was written by one Diane Wysowski of the FDA’s drug risk assessment division. Since 1995 when Fosamax was first marketed, the FDA has received 23 reports of patients who developed esophageal tumors. Typically the tumors took about two years to show up, after that person began taking Fosamax. Eight of those patients have died.
The class of drugs which Fosamax belongs to is known as biphosphonates. Fosamax is sold internationally and in Europe and Japan, 21 cases of esophageal cancer linked to Fosamax have been reported and six of those people have died. Fosamax is not the only biphosphonate implicated in these reports. Procter & Gamble’s similar drug called Actonel may have been involved, and also Roche’s drug called Boniva.
The FDA is debating whether to conduct more studies of Fosamax. Meanwhile, if you or a loved one have been harmed by Fosamax or some other defective drug, you may want to learn more about your legal options and rights. Please contact our defective drug attorneys to schedule a free consultation.