Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is a prescription medicine used to prevent or treat osteoporosis in women after menopause, and to treat osteoporosis in men. Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become thin and weak and break easily. Osteoporosis may have natural causes or may be found in men and women who have taken corticosteroids.
Fosamax can also be used to treat Paget's disease, a medical condition in which the body replaces healthy bones with weak bones.
Fosamax works by preventing bone breakdown and increasing bone density (thickness) in order to make bone stronger and less likely to break.
Fosamax is a bisphosphonate drug made by Merck and Company, Inc., and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999.
Serious Side Effects of Fosamax
The most common side effect associated with Fosamax use is abdominal pain. Less common side effects include:
- Difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing
- New or worsening heartburn
- Chest pain
- Upset stomach
- Bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Black, tarry, or bloody stools
- Mouth sores or pain in the mouth (especially if you chew or suck on tablets)
- Swelling of eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Eye pain
- Flu-like symptoms
- Irritation or pain of the esophagus
- Muscle pain
Skin rash, which may be severe and may worsen with exposure to sunlight, is a rare side effect associated with Fosamax use.
The following side effects may occur, but go away during treatment as your body adjusts to Fosamax. These side effects usually do not need medical attention, but see your healthcare professional if they are persistent or bothersome:
- Full or bloated feeling
- Change in ability to taste food
- Pain in bones, muscles, or joints
Fosamax and Osteonecrosis of the Jaw
There have been recent reports linking Fosamax to a serious side effect called Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ) or 'jaw death.' ONJ is a medical condition in which the jawbone partially crumbles and dies. ONJ may cause severe pain, loose teeth, exposed bone, loss of function, and disfigurement.
Fosamax maker Merck and Company, Inc., has stated that ONJ is a rare side effect, and that in controlled clinical trials involving more than 17,000 patients, there were no reports of ONJ.
Most researchers and doctors interviewed in recent news reports appear to believe that the benefits of bisphosphonate drugs greatly outweigh the risks, and say that they will continue prescribing these medicines to their patients. In the past, it appears that most reported instances of ONJ have been with cancer patients taking bisphosphonate medications intravenously.