Harvard Women's Health Watch

By the way, doctor: What can I take for osteoporosis besides Fosamax?

Q. I'm 60 and have osteoporosis. My doctor is recommending Fosamax, but I'm concerned about jawbone problems. Are there any other drugs I can take?

A. Many are asking the same question because of the publicity surrounding a small number of women who've suffered the death of jawbone tissue (osteonecrosis of the jaw) while taking medications in the same class as Fosamax (alendronate). Statistically speaking, the risk is small — less than 1 in 100,000 — but it is genuine, and there are some alternatives.

Fosamax is one of a group of drugs called bisphosphonates that are regarded as first-line medications for preventing and treating osteoporosis. Most of the jawbone problems associated with these drugs have occurred in cancer patients receiving intravenous injections of zoledronate (Zometa) or pamidronate (Aredia) for bone pain. Experts don't know why these patients seem particularly vulnerable, but it may be that cancer treatment changes their response to bisphosphonate therapy. Also, the doses needed to treat bone pain are higher than those required for preventing or treating osteoporosis.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »