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FDA issues update on osteoporosis drugs

Heart Health

Bisphosphonates, drugs used effectively to treat osteoporosis, have been widely prescribed since 1995. But questions linger about possible problems with their long-term use. (Prescribed under several brand names as well as generics, bisphosphonates carry safety warnings about potential risks for jawbone decay and thigh bone fractures.)

Now, an update on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Consumer Updates website suggests some bisphosphonate users may be able to stop taking the drugs after three to five years, yet keep benefiting from their use, because the drugs can stay in bones for years.

FDA researchers base their report on a survey of clinical studies involving bone mineral density and fractures in men and women who had been taking bisphosphonates for three to 10 years.

(NOTE: Researchers stress highly more investigation is needed, and osteoporosis patients taking bisphosphonates should consult their doctors about specific health needs.)

For example, "Patients at increased risk for fractures (like older patients with a history of fracture and sub-normal bone density) may benefit further from continued bisphosphonate therapy," the FDA says.

To read the full report, "How Long Should You Take Osteoporosis Drugs?" visit www.fda.gov, click on "For Consumers and Patients," then search for "osteoporosis."