Doctors refining their thinking on Fosamax
Merck manufactures and markets Fosamax for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. It was approved for that purpose in the 1990s, and studies show that when prescribed for patients with severe osteoporosis, it signficantly reduces the risk of suffering additional fractures. On that basis, doctors began prescribing Fosamax prophylactically to patients at risk for osteoporosis, including, primarily, post-menopausal women with osteopenia (or pre-osteoporosis). Over the past ten years, this resulted in sales of 23.8 billion dollars worth of Fosamax and Fosamax D. Unfortunately, subsequent studies have shown that Fosamax given to patients with osteopenia does not reduce fracture rates, and that long-term prescription of the drug increases the likelihood of bizarre fracturing involving the femur or the jaw bones. There are currently 1400 people suing Merck for this type of injury, and the cases that have reached a verdict resulted in one win for Merck and one for a patient.Doctors such as Elizabeth Shane, a professor of medicine at Columbia University, suggest that doctors who are at the forefront of treatment with Fosamax and other oral biphosphonates, are reacting to the current research by delaying treatment until the patient presents with frank osteoporosis and thus are at "high risk for fracture."