Research has shown that a number of popular osteoporosis drugs may increase the risk of esophageal cancer when taken for prolonged periods of time. In fact, a recent study conducted at the University of Oxford’s Cancer Epidemiology Unit found that people who took oral bisphosphonates – Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, Zometa – over a five-year period were twice as likely to be diagnosed with esophageal cancer or cancer of the gullet. In addition to the increased risk of cancer, bisphosphonates have also recently been linked to osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ), renal failure and atypical bone fractures.
Fosamax Update 6/1/12: A new study has found that the long-term use of Fosamax may lead to esophageal cancer. The risk of the disease appears to be greater with Fosamax than with any other bisphosphonate osteoporosis medication. Click here to learn more.
Free Bisphosphonate Esophageal Cancer Case Evaluation: If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer after taking a bisphosphonate drug for an extended period of time, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit and we can help.
What’s the problem?
On July 21, 2011, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release regarding its ongoing review of studies conducted to determine whether the use of oral bisphosphonate drugs may cause an increased risk of esophageal cancer. The announcement was prompted by reports of esophagitis and esophageal events, particularly in individuals who do not follow specific directions for use of such medications. The administration has yet to conclude definitively whether oral bisphosphonates cause cancer of the esophagus, but it is continuing to monitor the issue closely and will release more information as it becomes available.
Bisphosphonate Side Effects
Bisphosphonates are popular prescription drugs used in the treatment of osteoporosis, a condition that leads sufferers to lose bone mineral density and bone strength over time. They are called bisphosphonates because they have two phosphonate (PO) groups, and are similar in structure to pyrophosphate. In a constant state of remodeling, new bone is laid down by cells called osteoblasts and old bone is removed by cells called osteoclasts. Bisphosphonates work by inhibiting bone removal (resorption) by the osteoclasts. Unfortunately, these osteoporosis drugs typically remain in the bones for a long time after they are used, anywhere from decades to a lifetime. The bisphosphonate class of drugs includes:
In addition to being linked to esophageal cancer, bisphosphonate medications have also been associated with the following serious side effects:
- Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (Dead Jaw)
- Atypical femur fractures
- Swelling or infection of the gums
- Loosening of the teeth
- Poor healing of the gums
- Numbness or a feeling of heaviness in the jaw
- Exposed bone
- Hip Fractures
- Renal failure
Bisphosphonate Femur Fractures
In February 2011, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirmed that the long-term use of bisphosphonates increases the risk for atypical (subtrochanteric or femoral shaft) fractures in older women.
Among women taking bisphosphonates for an extended period of five years or longer, the study found that more than 50 percent of subtrochanteric or femoral shaft fractures could be attributed to bisphosphonate use. Additional analysis suggested that if no patient received more than five years of bisphosphonate exposure, approximately one of every 10 cases of subtrochanteric or femoral shaft fractures in the population might be prevented.
The new research gives credibility to the long-suspected link between osteoporosis drugs and atypical bone fractures. Melvin Rosenwasser, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, says that patients need to re-evaluate the use of the osteoporosis drugs after being on them for five years.
“If you have been taking the drug for five years, you should be tested to see if you still need to take anything,” he says. ”Our study and others have shown you need to take [the drugs] for more than five years to get into some of the side effects.”
Nationwide, a growing number of lawsuits are being filed against bisphosphonate manufacturers, claiming that the companies failed to warn the public about the risk of severe side effects. To date, at least one claim has resulted in a jury awarding a plaintiff $8 million after finding that Merck failed to adequately research Fosamax and warn about the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw. The bisphosphonate side effects lawyers at Schmidt & Clark, LLP believe that drugmakers should be held accountable for their failure to properly warn consumers about the risk of these dangerous side effects. Our attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay no fees or charges unless we achieve a favorable outcome in your case.
Do I have a Bisphosphonate Esophageal Cancer Lawsuit?
The Product Liability & Defective Drug Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in bisphosphonate lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new esophageal cancer cases in all 50 states.