May 11, 2010

Fosamax, manufactured by Merck, is a prescription drug used to treat osteoporosis and Padget’s disease (malformation of bone).  Fosamax (generic bisphosphonate) works to slow down or stop bone loss by inhibiting resorption of bone and allowing for maintaining bone density or increasing it.  Early reports of Fosamax side effects forced the FDA to release a letter to physicians to use this drug with caution with some patients.  These reports included side effects of osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), esophageal irritation, musculoskeletal pain, and Fosamax femur fractures without any fall or other trauma associated with prolonged use.  One study in 2009 published in the medical journal Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research, reported four women who experienced femoral stress fractures while being on Fosamax for more than 5 years.  X-rays showed atypical transverse fracture lines.  These women discontinued use of the drug and one patient healed without surgical treatment while the other three required surgical intervention to stabilize the femur bone.  

A TV news presentation in February 2010 reported “Sudden bone breaks reported in patients taking Fosamax.”  Observations made by Dr. Robert Bunning, of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C. were presented.  According to Dr. Bunning, these osteoporotic drugs are supposed to slow down bone recycling by turning off osteoclasts.  Osteoclasts, are the cells that break down bone when bone is being remodeled.  The osteoblasts, bone cells that make bone, are allowed to keep working.  However, Bunning reports that biopsies of patients who have had these transverse femur fractures shows that both systems are shut down.  Bunning calls it “frozen bone,” which is brittle and more susceptible to these types of fractures.  In all of these reported cases, patients had been taking Fosamax or another type of bisphosphonate for more than 5 years.  Bunning believes that this drug does make bones stronger at least for the first few years of therapy.  With all of these patients, the breaks occurred in the thigh and without any trauma.  Many of the patients reported experiencing some thigh pain just before the femur broke.  Bunning suggests that if you are taking any of the bisphosphonate drugs, make sure to see your doctor right away if something doesn’t feel right.

Further Studies Implicate Fosamax with Femur Fractures:

Columbia University investigated 111 women taking bisphosphonates including Fosamax.  Its studies demonstrated that early on in therapy patients showed marked improvement in bone structure but after long-term use bone structure diminished.  Another study conducted at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York looked at samples from 21 women who suffered  femur fractures. Twelve of these patients who had been on bisphosphonates for 8 ½ years showed reduced bone tissue as compared to the other 9 patients who did not take bisphosphonates.   Also, the Annals of Internal Medicine has reported that bisphosphonates like Fosamax are more of a bone hardener, not bone builder.  They also state that over time, these drugs can cause bones to become brittle.

On March 2010, the FDA began a safety review of Fosamax to determine whether or not there is an increase in the risk of bone fractures.  The agency is investigating the possible link between Fosamax and fractures that occur below the hip joint on patients who have been on bisphosphonates for several years.  The FDA suggests that patients who are currently on these drugs should continue therapy but should make sure they talk to their doctors if they develop pain in the thigh or hip.

If you have experienced a Fosamax femur fracture or any other bone related illness while on Fosamax you may be entitled to financial compensation. Fosamax lawsuits are currently being filed across the country.


Susan Ardizzoni, Ph.D. holds a Doctorate in Biology with a major in Neuroscience (medical) and minors in Biochemistry, Physics, and Mathematics with experience in basic and clinical research.  Although the author is not an attorney, this article was sponsored by the law firm of Bernstein Liebhard LLP and constitutes Attorney Advertising.  To learn more about Fosamax side effects or Fosamax femur fracture please visit

Published November 17, 2011 by