A study recently presented to the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting concludes that using the drug alendronate sodium (brand name Fosamax, a member of the bisphosphonate drug class) might contribute to cancer of the esophagus. “In 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported on 23 patients who had developed distal esophageal cancer, with alendronate … within 2 years of initiation of therapy. Similarly, 31 cases of esophageal cancer were reported from Europe and Japan. Esophagitis has been associated with oral [bisphosphonates]. Erosive esophagitis and persistent mucosal abnormalities have been noted with crystalline material (similar to ground [alendronate]),” the study’s abstract states.
The researchers consulted the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System database using terms related to esophageal cancer combined with all drug names for bisphosphonates in instances from 1996 to 2010. The esophageal cancer cases were more common with bisphosphonates than with other drugs in the database. The researchers’ analysis of FDA data identified a larger number of cases of esophageal cancer than previously described, and a significant number associated with alendronate use.
New Research Confirms Prior Conflicting Reports
In 2010, two medical journals published contradictory studies regarding Fosamax and esophageal cancer. The first, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), disputes statements on topic made by an FDA official back in early 2009. By mid-May, 2008, the FDA had received 23 reports of Fosamax users developing esophageal cancer. The JAMA study surveyed data from a United Kingdom medical database of people who had esophageal or gastric cancers to see how many were using bisphosphonates. The authors found that 7 bisphosphonate users per 10,000 developed cancer, the same as general population.
By contrast, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) came to different conclusions with different data. Looking at the UK General Practice Research Database, its researchers found that those who filled 10 or more Fosamax prescriptions were twice as likely to develop esophageal cancer. The same FDA official who originally recommended the studies in early 2009, Diane Wysowski, endorsed the BMJ study in the same issue, pointing out that it used a larger sample size and a longer time frame. By the time of its publication, Wysoski reported that the number of bisphosphante-related esophageal cancer reports to the FDA had increased to 34 since January 2009.
Osteoporosis Patients Should Consult a Physician About Fosamax
Although Fosamax has helped many people keep the effects of osteoporosis in check, there might be alternatives to the drug. If you are at risk of developing cancer, lifestyle changes such as dietary modifications and the addition of exercise can help strengthen bones and help reverse bone loss. Only a qualified medical professional, however, can advise whether osteoporosis can be treated without medication. It is important to weigh the risks and benefits of a drug like Fosamax in order to determine whether it is right for you.
RLG Represents Injured Fosamax Users
If you have been taking Fosamax for an extended period of time and have suffered a femur fracture, it could be because of the medication, and you might be eligible for compensation by filing a femur fracture lawsuit against Merck. The lawyers at the Rottenstein Law Group can help. Our Fosamax lawyers have over 25 years of collective experience advocating for clients in consumer product injury and mass tort cases. Please fill out our contact form or call us at 1-877-332-2347, and one of our lawyers will be in touch.
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