12/23/2009 - News

Cancer of the Esophagus Reported in Patients Taking Osteoporosis Drugs

By: June Chen, MD

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported 23 cases of esophageal cancer in patients taking oral bisphosphonate drugs, namely alendronate (marketed as Fosamax®), for osteoporosis, according to an article in the January 1, 2009 issue o the New England Journal of Medicine.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported 23 cases of esophageal cancer in patients taking oral bisphosphonate drugs, namely alendronate (marketed as Fosamax®), for osteoporosis, according to an article in the January 1, 2009 issue o the New England Journal of Medicine .

The 23 cases of esophageal cancer, 8 of which were fatal, were reported in the United States between the time alendronate was launched in October 1995 and May 2008. Alendronate was named as the suspect drug in 21 cases and as a concomitant drug in the other 2 cases. In addition to these cases, 31 cases of esophageal cancer have been reported in Europe and Japan, with alendronate cited as the suspect drug in 21 cases. Six of the remaining cases were associated with other bisphosphonate drugs for osteoporosis.

More than 150 million prescriptions for alendronate have been written in the United States alone since 1995. Further research is needed to examine this possible association between alendronate and esophageal cancer, but for now, patients should be careful to take bisphosphonates exactly as prescribed.

Source

N Engl J Med. 2009;1360:89-90

Created on: 01/05/2009
Reviewed on: 12/23/2009

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