April 28, 2008: According to research from Group Health and the University of Washington, the osteoporosis drug Fosamax appears to double women’s chances of developing atrial fibrillation, the most common form of chronic irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation occurs when a problem with the heart’s electrical system causes the atria to quiver, or fibrillate. The quivering interrupts the normal rhythm between the heart’s upper and lower chambers, which may cause the heart to beat fast and irregularly.

In many cases, atrial fibrillation has no symptoms, and it is not necessarily life-threatening. However, atrial fibrillation may cause adverse side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, or fainting. Additionally, atrial fibrillation can cause blood clots, which can lead to more serious heart problems such as stroke, heart failure, and heart attack.

The decision to study the connection between Fosamax and atrial fibrillation was made last year after a similar drug, Reclast, was linked to high risk of the chronic heart condition. The Fosamax study compared more than 700 female atrial fibrillation patients to 900 randomly-selected female patients with high blood pressure. According to the results, having ever used alendronate (the generic name for Fosamax) was associated with an 86% higher risk of atrial fibrillation, compared with never having used the drug.

Because Fosamax is the only drug known to build bone in women prone to bone loss, the newly discovered link between Fosamax and atrial fibrillation puts women and health professionals in a bind. Women at a high risk of bone fractures or breaks are advised not to stop taking Fosamax without first speaking to their doctors. For many women, the benefits of Fosamax may still outweigh the risks.

On the other hand, women who are at high risk of fractures, but also have risk factors for atrial fibrillation, such as heart failure, diabetes, or coronary disease, may want to discuss alternatives to Fosamax with their health providers. Other medications, such as estrogen, can reduce the risk of bone fractures. Still, hormone therapy may cause heart problems as well.

If you or someone you love has been affected by Fosamax related side effects and you’d like to more about your legal rights, contact our lawyers today.

Published November 17, 2011 by