Fosamax Linked to Esophageal Cancer

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A new study has found that the long-term use of the popular osteoporosis drug Fosamax (generic: alendronate) may lead to esophageal cancer. The risk of the disease appears to be greater with Fosamax than with any other bisphosphonate osteoporosis medication. Signs and symptoms of Fosamax-induced esophageal cancer may include pain when swallowing, weight loss, heartburn, and a hoarse voice or cough that doesn’t go away within two weeks.

Fosamax Lawsuit Update 6/14/12: The next New Jersey trial date involving the Fosamax litigation will involve a lawsuit over a femur fracture, even though jaw decay cases are older and were originally first in line. There are currently about 1,800 Fosamax cases consolidated in the Superior Court of New Jersey for Atlantic County as part of a ‘mass tort’ for pretrial proceedings, including both fracture lawsuits and jaw decay claims.

What’s the problem?

For the study, researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago examined adverse event reports submitted to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) between 1995 and 2010. During this time, bisphosphonate osteoporosis drugs were linked to at least 128 cases of esophageal cancer. Of these, Fosamax users appeared to more than six times more likely to develop the disease than those who took other drugs from the same class, such as Boniva and Actonel. Ninety-six out of the 128 cases of esophageal cancer were linked to Fosamax.

The study’s authors are recommending that patients with the following conditions should avoid taking Fosamax:

  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • esophageal cancer
  • persistent mucosal abnormalities

First approved by the FDA in 1995, Fosamax is the most widely-prescribed bisphosphonate medication in the United States. The drug consistently generated over $3 billion in sales for Merck each year before it became available as a generic in 2008.

In addition to being linked to esophageal cancer, Fosamax has also been repeatedly associated with osteonecrosis of the jaw and atypical femur fractures, which often occur with little or no trauma at all. Merck currently faces a slew of lawsuits pending in courts around the country alleging the company failed to adequately research the drug or warn the public about its serious side effects.

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