Drugs Q & A

How Long Is It Safe To Take Fosamax?

Studies have shown that about 10 million adults in the United States over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition defined by low bone density, which increases the risk of hip fractures and spinal fractures. Research has shown that the risk of death after hip fracture may be around 10% at 30 days after the fracture, and 27% at 1 year after the fracture. This is one of the reasons why preventing or treating osteoporosis is so important.

What is Fosamax?

Fosamax is an FDA-approved drug used in adults to prevent or treat osteoporosis (a condition that causes brittle, weak bones) in women who’ve gone through menopause, treat osteoporosis in men, treat osteoporosis that’s caused by using a type of medication called glucocorticoids and treat Paget’s disease of bone (a condition that causes weak, soft bones).

Fosamax contains the active drug alendronate which belongs to a class of medications called bisphosphonates. (A class of medications is a group of drugs that work in a similar way.) Fosamax works to decrease bone breakdown in your body and make your bones stronger. Fosamax comes as 70-milligram (mg) tablets that you take by mouth, typically once a week.

It’s not known exactly how long treatment with Fosamax should last. In clinical trials, the drug was only studied in people for up to 4 years. Your doctor may have you stop taking Fosamax after 3 to 5 years. It was first introduced to the U.S. market in 1995 by the drug manufacturer Merck. The approval is based on efficacy data from five clinical trials, involving a total of 1,827 patients with an average 20% reduction in bone mineral density, in 16 countries. These data show that alendronate can restore bone loss as a result of osteoporosis and also reduce the risk of new spinal fractures, according to Laurence Hirsch, executive director of clinical research at Merck Research Laboratories.

How should I take Fosamax?

According to drugs.com, you should take Fosamax exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Fosamax is taken either once daily or once per week. Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Take Fosamax first thing in the morning, at least 30 minutes before you eat or drink anything or take any other medicine. If you take this medicine only once per week, take it on the same day each week and always first thing in the morning.

Take with a full glass (6 to 8 ounces) of plain water. Do not use coffee, tea, soda, juice, or mineral water. Do not eat or drink anything other than plain water.

Do not crush, chew, or suck on a Fosamax tablet. Swallow the tablet whole.

For at least 30 minutes after taking Fosamax:

•          Do not lie down or recline.

•          Do not take any other medicine including vitamins, calcium, or antacids.

Pay special attention to your dental hygiene while taking Fosamax. Brush and floss your teeth regularly. If you need to have any dental work (especially surgery), tell the dentist ahead of time that you are using alendronate.

Fosamax is only part of a complete program of treatment that may also include diet changes, exercise, bone mineral density testing, and taking calcium and vitamin supplements. Follow your doctor’s instructions very closely.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Your doctor will determine how long to treat you with this medicine. Fosamax is often given for only 3 to 5 years.

What else should I know?

Fosamax may cause irritation or ulceration of the esophagus, however, this is very unlikely if you are able to stand or sit upright for at least 30 minutes after taking the medication. Individuals with untreated calcium deficiency or esophageal disease should not use this treatment. Do not use Fosamax if you are pregnant or nursing.

What about other medications?

When you are taking Fosamax, it is very important that your doctors know if you are taking any other medicine. This includes prescription and non-prescription medicines as well as vitamins and herbal supplements.

Fosamax treatment should be taken on its own without any other medications, and you must wait at least 30 minutes before taking other drugs. It is best to have your doctor’s advice before adding another medication to your daily routine.

How long is too long with Fosamax?

According to recent guidelines, 4 years is the recommended duration for taking Fosamax. This is because four years of Fosamax has been shown to reduce the risk of hip and spine fractures without significant risk of side effects that could lead to brittle bones. After 4 years, a break from Fosamax and a close eye on your bone health for the next few years are recommended.

After 4 years of treatment, the need for continued treatment should be reassessed based on the individual’s risk of fracture and their response to therapy.

However, some individuals with severe osteoporosis or other medical conditions may require longer-term treatment with Fosamax. In these cases, the benefits and risks of continued treatment should be carefully evaluated by a healthcare provider.

It is important to follow the dosing instructions and recommended duration of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking Fosamax without first consulting with your healthcare provider, as this could increase your risk of fractures.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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