Fosamax Side Effects – Osteonecrosis and Femur Fractures
Fosamax is the brand name for alendronate, a type of bisphosphonate drug that is used in the treatment of a number of bone diseases, notably osteoporosis and osteitis deformans (Paget’s disease).
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1995, Fosamax is manufactured by Merck & Co. With 2005 revenues exceeding $3 Billion, Fosamax is Merck & Co’s second best-selling drug on the market. The fact that the drug has recently been linked with the onset of a serious bone condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), as well as with the risk of femur fractures, could spell disaster for Merck, who are currently involved in litigation surrounding Vioxx.
Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
In addition to the somewhat common and relatively mild side effects (headache, nausea, abdominal discomfort, rash, etc.) that are associated with the use of Fosamax, users face the risk of developing a serious condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw, or “dead jaw.” Fosamax users suffering from ONJ are susceptible to severe infections that can cause facial discomfort, numbness or extreme pain. Swelling of the gums and poor gum health can also be caused as a result of ONJ.
Osteonecrosis (avascular necrosis, aseptic necrosis, ischemic necrosis) is a type of bone disease that affects approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Americans each year. It commonly results from a temporary / permanent loss of blood flow to the bones. Without an adequate supply of blood, bone tissue cannot survive and will eventually die and lead to joint collapse.
The process of diagnosing osteonecrosis typically begins with a number of painful symptoms that lead a sufferer to consult an orthopaedist, a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. The most common osteonecrosis symptom is severe and chronic joint pain that is not unlike that suffered by arthritics. Although the time period between the initial onset of joint pain and the loss of joint functionality varies from one osteonecrosis sufferer to the next, it usually takes no longer than one year.
If a case of osteonecrosis goes undetected and/or untreated, it can eventually cause a great deal of arthritic pain while the joint surface erodes and the bone gradually collapses.
In order to determine whether someone eliciting symptoms of osteonecrosis is in fact suffering from a case of the rare bone disease, a complete physical examination is performed (functional evaluation of the bone) in addition to an evaluation of a patient’s medical history. Any number of bone imaging techniques (X ray, MRI, CT scan, bone scan) are eventually employed in order to determine whether signs of osteonecrosis are present.
In addition to bone imaging techniques and physical functionality examinations, an orthopaedist may also request the surgical biopsy of bone tissue to determine whether it is receiving an adequate supply of blood.
Update – Fosamax Side Effects – Femur Fracture
In addition to osteonecrosis, there is increasing evidence that Fosamax also may cause femur fractures in patients who take the drug for five years or longer. Although Fosamax is prescribed to strengthen bones, it actually may make bones more brittle when used for a long period of time. Women taking Fosamax have experienced femur fractures while performing relatively non-strenuous activities, such as descending stairs or engaging in low-stress exercises. The FDA notified Merck & Co. of this problem in 2008. However, Merck waited 16 months to add the risk of femur fractures to its list of potential Fosamax side effects, potentially placing additional patients at risk.
Drug manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of their products before marketing them for public consumption. Failure to do so is considered negligent and grounds for personal injury litigation. The law offices of Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis and Overholtz are experienced Pensacola, Florida defective drug attorneys. They have successfully represented and obtained substantial compensation for a number of patients who have been harmed by defective drugs. Contact AWKO law today at (844) 794-7402 to get more information about your rights as a Fosamax injury victim.