Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: Should I stop taking bisphosphonates?

Q. I'm hearing more and more about deterioration of the jawbone associated with bisphosphonate drugs. I've been taking Fosamax for over six years for osteoporosis. What should I do?

A. Bisphosphonates are widely prescribed for osteoporosis. They are also used to treat bone pain and other complications in cancer patients who have bone involvement. Besides alendronate (Fosamax), these drugs include risedronate (Actonel), ibandronate (Boniva), tiludronate (Skelid) and etidronate (Didronel), which are taken by mouth, and the more potent zoledronate (Zometa), pamidronate (Aredia), and clodronate (Bonefos), which are given intravenously.

Media reports have fueled concerns about a connection between bisphosphonates and the death of bone tissue (osteonecrosis) in the jaw. Since we last wrote about this problem, more cases of osteonecrosis have been reported. Most have occurred among cancer patients taking intravenous bisphosphonates, but a handful have involved otherwise healthy women taking oral forms of these drugs for osteoporosis prevention or treatment.

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