Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Osteoporosis drugs not linked to atrial fibrillation

Heart Beat

Osteoporosis drugs not linked to atrial fibrillation

Bone-strengthening drugs taken by millions of Americans to fight osteoporosis and other conditions aren't linked to the onset of the fast, irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. These drugs, called bisphosphonates, include alendronate (Fosamax), etidronate (Didronel), ibandronate (Boniva), pamidronate (Aredia, generic), risedronate (Actonel), tiludronate (Skelid), and zoledronic acid (Reclast, Zometa).

Studies in 2007 and 2008 raised the possibility that people who took a bisphosphonate were more likely to develop atrial fibrillation than those who didn't take one. These findings prompted the FDA to review trials that included nearly 40,000 participants who took one of these drugs or a placebo. The review found no association between use of a bisphosphonate and atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is so common — more than two million Americans are living with it — that it would be surprising if it didn't occur in some people who take a widely prescribed drug. So whether or not you are taking a bisphosphonate, talk with your doctor if it feels like your heart sometimes races, you feel a fluttering sensation in your chest, or you have chest pain or unexpected shortness of breath.

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