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Swiss Study Points to Femur Fracture Risk from Bone Drugs

Filed May 23rd, 2012 Laurie

Concern over a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates has been growing because research has shown the drugs are not effective after a long period of use, and may in fact cause unusual femur fractures in some women. A new study out now adds weight to those concerns while showing there may still be value to the drugs, with the findings being published online in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine on May 21.

Bisphosphonates are used to prevent and treat osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that is common in older women. In 2010 the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the possible risk of femur fractures from taking the drugs over a long period of time.

Swiss researchers looked at 477 patients age 50 and older who were hospitalized with a femoral fracture. Thirty-nine of those patients had atypical fractures and 438 had a “classic fracture.” The groups were compared with 200 people without femoral fractures.

Investigators found that 82 percent of patients with atypical fractures had been treated with bisphosphonates like the popular drugs Actonel and Fosamax. However, compared to patients without fractures, use of bisphosphonates was associated with a 47 percent reduction in the risk of a classic fracture.

The study uncovered an association between bisphosphonate use and atypical fractures, but did not prove and cause-and-effect relationship between the two.

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