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Study Links Commonly Prescribed Osteoporosis Drugs To An Increase In Hip Fractures

Picture-1221A recently presented study at the annual conference of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons conclusively demonstrates that post-menopausal women who take a drugs to slow bone loss — osteoporosis— may be at a heightened risk for hip fractures.  Bisphosphonates, as the group of drugs is commonly known, include brand name medications such as: Actonel, Boniva, Fosomax and Reclast.

While the drugs are commonly prescribed to maintain bone strength in older women, the study demonstrated that when the drugs are taken for more than 5 years, the incidence of hip fractures begins to increase in the group of women who take the drugs compared with women who were not taking the drugs.

“These drugs are good drugs.  They strengthen bone and protect you from fractures for a while.  But in some people that can become deleterious after a period of time,” according to Melvin Rosenwasser, chief of orthopedic trauma surgery at Columbia Medical Center in New York.

At this point, the FDA has not reviewed the studies nor has the agency issued any recalls with respect to the drugs involved in the study.  Rather, if you are taking any of the aforementioned drugs, you should discuss the use with your doctor and make a determination as to what works best for your situation.

Read more about the study linking osteoporosis drugs with hip fractures here.

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Hip Fractures In The Elderly

As a nursing home lawyer, I have worked on many cases involving hip fractures as a consequence of falls.  Unfortunately, hip fractures typically require surgical repair in order for the patient to regain any quality of life post-fracture.  An estimated 300,000 people undergo surgery for hip fractures every year.

Most hip fractures fall into two categories:

Femoral Neck Fracture

A femoral neck fracture occurs when the ball of the ball-and-socket hip joint is fractured off the femur. Treatment of a femoral neck fracture depends on the age of the patient and the amount of displacement of the fracture.  A partial of full hip replacement may be necessary in patients who sustain a femoral neck fracture because of diminished blood flow makes healing of the area affected by the fracture unlikely.

Intertrochanteric Hip Fracture

An intertrochanteric hip fracture occurs just below the femoral neck. These fractures are amenable to repair more often than femoral neck fractures. The usual surgical treatment involves placement of a plate and screws to stabilize the fracture as opposed to a partial or complete hip replacement.

Hip fracture surgery complications

The good news is that modern medicine is capable of treating many types of hip fractures.  However, data has shown us that many elderly people have an incredibly difficult time recovering from hip fracture procedures.  In fact, an estimated 30%+ of people over 60 will die in the year following their procedure.

All this means that nursing homes and other care facilities should take all possible efforts to implement fall prevention programs to reduce the risk of falls in their patients.

Related Nursing Homes Abuse Blog Entries:

Bone Fractures In The Elderly Require Special Attention To Improve Recovery & Prevent Complications

Nursing Home Staff Must Take Precautions While Moving & Transferring Disabled Patients To Minimize Risk Of Dropping

Nursing Home Patients Have More Post-Surgical Complications Than Their Peers

A Video Diagram Of A Hip Replacement Surgery

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  • irene weinrot

    There are many of us who have networked on line who have sustained a subtrochanteric fx as a result of long term Fosamax (just one of many bisphosphonates) the treatment for that is an intermedullary rod or nail not a plate as you describe.
    thak you
    Irene Weinrot

  • Rita Prassa

    I and my daughter both have sustained femur fractures but not from falls. In my case my right leg had pain for almost a year. Then one evening I got up from my chair, took a step and my right femur broke and I then fell to the floor. In my daughter’s case she has cerebral palsy and is not ambulatory. She was being turned in bed by her caregiver. We both were taking Fosamax for over ten years for ostioperosis. Neither of us has had a fracture from a fall.
    Rita Prassa May 4, 2010 12:34 PM

  • Kay M Datesman

    After 12 years on Fosamax I “suffered” (and it was very painful) a low energy, subtrochanter fracture of the femor. I was standing up when it occured, prior X-Rays were negative for stress fracture.I received an IM Rod. I fear tha extended care patients will fall victim to overuse of the bisphosphonates and may go as an overlooked statistic unless a greater awareness is created. thank you. Kay M Datesman

  • Irene-
    I stand corrected with respect to the intramedullary rod as treatment for subtrochanteric fractures. Thank you for pointing this out.
    If you don’t mind, can you share the name of your on-line community so others can get support?
    Jonathan

  • Vicki Steensma

    After a 10-year usage of Fosamax, I suffered two broken femur and a broken vertebrae within a four-month period. I had been prescribed the drug as a preventive medicine when I was 50 years old. I never had osteoporosis, but as a result of taking the bisphosphonate drug for such an extended period of time, my bones are chalk sticks. I am a member of the online support group for victims of this drug who have indeed suffered at least one fracture. Dr. Jennifer Schneider, herself a victim, began the group in 2008. You may contact her at: jennifer@jenniferschneider.com

  • Nancy O

    I was standing in my kitchen, took a quick step back toward the sink, heard a loud crack and fell to the floor with part of my left leg on the floor and part sticking up in the air. It hurts to break a femur. It hurts more when a drug that was supposed to help actually causes many months of agony. Additionally, the bone is not healing well due to Fosamax. Prior to the fall, I had several months of leg pain and was walking with a limp. Watch for signs and talk to your doctor. I did not have osteoporosis but took this mediciine to prevent bone loss. Ha!

  • The 2010 AAOS meeting presented studies from the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and Columbia University Medical Center showing that Fosamax disturbs bone formation, and implicated Fosamax in spontaneous mid-femur fractures (without trauma).
    Clarita Odvina MD reported nine cases of spontaneous femur fracture on Fosamax. Dr. Goh, a doctor in Singapore, identified nine more cases in his 2007 report of subtrochanteric femur fractures with minimal trauma in women on long term Fosamax. Joseph M Lane MD reported 15 cases of spontaneous femur fracture in women on Fosamax with a unique radiographic pattern. How many more case reports do we need?
    Perhaps we should re-evaluate a drug that causes spontaneous mid femur fractures, jaw necrosis, and diffuse bone and joint pain. The FIT study, published in JAMA in 1998, was a double blind placebo controlled study which failed to reveal these adverse side effects, indicating a flawed drug approval process.
    for more see: http://www.drdach.com/Fosamax_Fractures.html
    jeffrey dach md

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