2 Jan 2009

Continue with osteoporosis medicine, says Pharmac

1:43 pm on 2 January 2009

The Government's drug-buying agency Pharmac says people taking the osteoporosis drug Fosamax should continue to do so despite concerns raised in the United States.

The US Food and Drug Administration wants research carried out on Fosamax and other similar drugs to check potential links to oesophageal cancer.

Pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moody said these are very early reports on the drug and more information is needed.

"They certainly have found some cases of cancer of the oesophagus, but its a small number and its been over a long period of time," he said.

"I think there needs to be a lot more discussion before anybody makes any decisions about this drug and I think people who are taking this drug should just continue to do so in the meantime."

Dr Moody said Fosamax is known to produce a type of indigestion for some users but people should not jump to any conclusions until more is known.

About 30,000 people in New Zealand take Fosamax.

Diane Wysowski of the US Food and Drug Administration said in a letter in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine that researchers should check into potential links between so-called bisphosphonate drugs and cancer.

She said that since the initial marketing of Fosamax in 1995, the FDA has received 23 reports in which patients developed oesophageal tumours. Eight patients died.

In Europe and Japan, 21 cases involving Fosamax, manufactured by Merck, have been logged, as well as six instances where Procter & Gamble's Actonel or risedronate and Didronel or etidronate, and Roche's Boniva or ibandronate may have been involved. Six of those people died.

The drugs aim to treat bone-weakening osteoporosis by increasing bone mass.