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Ads for Bone Density Drugs Don't Mention Disabling Pain As a Side Effect, and Neither Do Most Doctors

Filed January 9th, 2008 amy

Television advertisements target women at risk for osteoporosis to ask their doctors to prescribe bone density drugs by having household-name celebrities like Sally Field promote the drugs. But what these commercials aren’t telling people (and neither are most doctors) is that the side effects for taking these drugs can be more painful than osteoporosis.

The FDA is reviewing hundreds of reports that patients taking bone density drugs are experiencing debilitating pain. Some people don’t experience the symptoms for months, and in some cases it can be more than a year before a patient develops the life-crippling pain. Some reports indicate that the pain is so bad that patients are unable to walk. It’s expected that the FDA will take at least six months to review these reports.

Meanwhile, on January 7, the FDA issued a warning to physicians that patients taking bone density drugs may experience incapacitating bone, joint, and/or muscle pain in patients. But it’s likely that patients prescribed these drugs (Boniva, Actonel, Didronel, Reclast, Zometra, Fosamax, and Skelid) haven’t been warned of the risks. While the FDA advises doctors whose patients are in pain to “consider temporary or permanent discontinuation of the drug,” it has been reported that some patients who stop taking the drug don’t get rid of the pain. This same class of drugs has previously been linked to an inability of jaw bone to regrow after oral surgery and irregularly fast heartbeat.

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