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Cases of jaw bone death caused by Fosamax often unreported

Merck, maker of osteoporosis drug Fosamax, may have “seriously under reported” the risks of "jawbone death" related to the drug, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. A class-action lawsuit has been filed claiming that Merck knew about the risk of jawbone death but hid it from the public.

"Jawbone death" is associated with the use of a bisphosphonate class of drugs (to which Fosamax belongs). Also known as Bisphosphonate-Related Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (BRONJ), is a serious side effect that destroys the bone in the jaw, and is difficult to treat.

BRONJ was reported by oral surgeons, who noticed the condition among patients treated with intravenous forms of bisphosphonates in 2003. A broader warning of BRONJ was issued for the entire class of drugs in 2005.

Fosamax is prescribed to about 10 million men and women -- mostly postmenopausal women -- each year to help increase bone density, with annual sales of $3 billion. Over 190 million prescriptions for oral bisphosphonate drugs have been dispensed worldwide.

The article does not mention that taking daily calcium and vitamin D-3 supplements is required with the drugs, or that specific calcium forms are more readily absorbable than others, or that certain co-factors such as vitamin K enhance calcium utilization.

See also:

Osteoporosis Drugs Don't Work Without Hi-Dose Calcium and Vitamin D-3

Calcium and Vitamin D Increase Bone Mineral Density in Elderly

Vitamin K from Natto Reduces Bone Loss 80%

Vitamin K Reduces Osteoarthritis Risk by 40%

The role of calcium in osteoporosis drug therapy - Mar 2005


Salvatore L. Ruggiero, Bhoomi Mehrotra, Tracey J. Rosenberg, Stephen L. Engroff; Osteonecrosis of the Jaws Associated With the Use of Bisphosphonates: A Review of 63 Cases; J Oral Maxillofac Surg 62:527-534, 2004

Press Release, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

Key concepts: prescription drugs, Merck, Fosamax, bisphosphonate, Bisphosphonate-Related Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (BRONJ), osteoporosis