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Fosamax is a prescription drug that treats osteoporosis in men and women after menopause, as well as other bone diseases. It’s also known by its technical name of alendronate sodium. Osteoporosis is a health condition where the bones become thin and weak and therefore break easily.

Fosamax is a bisphosphonate drug made by Merck and Company, Inc. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Fosamax in 1999. Other bisphosphonate drugs include Actonel, Aredia, Boniva, Didronel, Reclast, Skelid, and Zometa. For more information about Fosamax, see the Fosamax FAQs.

Research on Fosamax

The FDA has received reports linking Fosamax to a serious side effect, Osteonecrosis of the Jaw or ONJ. ONJ causes the jawbone to crumble and die, hence its nickname “jaw death.” ONJ causes severe pain, loose teeth, exposed jawbones, loss of jaw function, and disfigurement of the face. This is a rare side effect. During clinical trials of more than 17,000 patients, there were no reports of ONJ. Cancer patients taking bisphosphonate medications intravenously may have been the primary or only reporters of ONJ. Merck was sued and has settled a number of lawsuits on the ONJ side effect.

A study published in the British Medical Journal linked the use of osteoporosis bisphosphonate drugs to esophageal cancer. Fosamax was one of the drugs researched in this study. However, researches are still looking at the long-term effects of bisphosphonates. Most researchers and doctors interviewed in recent news reports appear to believe that the benefits of bisphosphonate drugs greatly outweigh the risks and drugs such as Fosamax continue to be prescribed.

Taking Fosamax

Take Fosamax orally with a full glass (6 to 8 oz.) of plain water on an empty stomach. Fosamax should be taken in the morning, at least 30 minutes before taking any food, beverage, or other medicines (such as antacids or calcium and vitamin supplements). Taking other food and beverages within 30 minutes of taking Fosamax will decrease the amount of absorption by the body. Don’t lie down for 30 minutes after taking Fosamax. Remaining upright prevents irritation to the esophagus and allows Fosamax to reach your stomach faster.

When taking Fosamax, follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. If your dose is different from what is on the label, don't change it unless instructed by your doctor. If you miss a dose of Fosamax, don't take it later in the day. Simply resume your usual schedule the next morning. Don't double dose.

Getting Legal Help

While all medications have certain, anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to make its products as reasonably safe as possible, and to inform the medical community and the public of known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible if patients are injured as the result of inadequate warnings or the unreasonably dangerous nature of the drug, under a legal theory called "product liability."

Fosamax has some known serious side effects and health risks. For more information on these see the Fosamax FAQs. If you or a loved one have experienced any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions while taking Fosamax, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also wish to meet with an experienced attorney to discuss your options and to protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Fosamax use.

To learn more about an attorney's role in a pharmaceutical liability case, see the Get Legal Help with a Defective Product Injury article. To find an experienced attorney, use the "Find a Lawyer" tool on this page, or visit the FindLaw Lawyer Directory.

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