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Monday, 11 November 2013

Fosamax. Harming Patients: and waiting to be banned?

Fosamax is an osteoporosis drug. Merck, its manufacturer, are estimated to have made more than $3 billion in sales to over 10 million people since it was first approved by the FDA in September 1995. Why has it been a best seller? You can still read about the 'amazing benefits' of Fosamax on the internet! 
          "Living with Osteoporosis. This is an amazing age, when it’s actually possible to help reverse bone loss. This is the age of Fosamax"
          "Your doctor has prescribed Fosamax because you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis (thinning bones). And although diet, exercise and vitamins are important in maintaining your overall bone health these alone may not be enough".
So how likely is it that you will have osteoporosis? The website tells you that 58% of women between 50 and 59 years of age do. 74% of women between 60 and 69 years of age do. And 92% of women older than 70 do. The implication is, therefore, that most older women should be taking it - or face the almost inevitable consequences!
Yet the magazine WDDTY wrote about the drug as long ago as February 2003 and its DIEs - which it gave as stomach pain, heartburn, nausea, irritation of oesophagus. It stated that 31 people had died of this last DIE, with stomach ulcers and acute hepatitis.
Similarly, Mercola stated in April 2006 that it had been warning against the drug for 8 years (that is, after it had been marketed for just 3 years). They stated that this showed the length of time between a drug problem being identified and action being taken is considerable - and that throughout this time patients are taking drugs without realizing they are dangerous.
On 9th August 2007 Mercola asked whether Merck, the manufacturer, had 'seriously under reported' its risks which were then known to be causing the disease 'osteonecrosis', or Jawbone death (US dentists apparently call it, 'Fossy-jaw'). It is a condition that can cause your jaw-bone to rot and decay. 
The allegation was that Merck knew about the dangers of jawbone death, but hid it from the public - and as a result the company is now facing hundreds of lawsuits in the USA now.
It is interesting to note that as late as February 2003, when the magazine WDDTY listed Fosamax’s DIEs, there was no mention of ostenecrosis at this time. Again, this demonstrates that Big Pharma drugs can be causing harm without it being known, even by magazines that specialize in drawing our attention to the adverse reaction to drugs.
Fosamax is now subject to a substantial number of lawsuits in the USA. One jury has recently awarded $4.5 million dollars to one plaintiff. It has been estimated that there are many thousands of lawsuits either proceeding in court at present, or in process. Merck already faces many thousands of lawsuits in relation to its antidepressant drug, Vioxx; but they have been able to argue that there are many factors other than the drug that can cause the heart attacks associated with it. With osteonecrosis, the link with Fosamax is apparently much clearer, and easier to prove in court.
And Fosamax has now been found to increase the risk of sudden hip fractures; so it has been prescribed for a condition - and actually makes that condition worse!
More recently, in September 2010, Foxamax has been found to double the risk of esophageal cancer.