As people get older, their bones naturally thin. Starting in middle age, bone cells are reabsorbed into the body at a faster rate than new bone is made. Your peak bone density is reached at age 30. Bone mineral density is a measurement of how dense and strong bones are through the level of minerals in the bones. Osteopenia means that you have a low bone density as compared to the normal peak bone mineral density. People who have been diagnosed with osteopenia are much more likely to develop osteoporosis, which is a very low bone mineral density. Osteopenia is diagnosed with a bone mineral density test. The most popular test is called DEXA, a form of x-ray that can detect small changes in bone loss from the prior year.
Things that increase risk include:
- Being white (Caucasian) or, to a lesser degree, being Asian.
- A family history of osteoporosis.
- Being thin.
- Long-term use of corticosteroids, such as prednisone or hydrocortisone for inflammatory conditions, or anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin), or gabapentin (Neurontin) for pain or seizures.
- Eating disorders or diseases that affect the absorption of nutrients from food.
- Being inactive or bedridden for a long period of time.
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Having a diet low in calcium or Vitamin D.
Merck won approval for Fosamax in 1995; this drug is intended to treat bone loss due to osteoporosis and osteopenia. However, the FDA has warned that Fosamax and other bisphosphonates, such as Actonel or Boniva, may increase the risk of atypical femur fractures in patients taking the medication to treat osteoporosis. An atypical femur fracture (which manifests as a subtrochanteric or diaphyseal fracture) may occur during normal everyday activities with little or no trauma.
Some women have suffered from the following injuries while taking Fosamax:
- Femur Fractures
- Osteonecrosis of the Jaw/Dead jaw syndrome
- Severe Musculoskeletal Pain
- Esophageal Cancer
- Atrial Fibrillation
The FDA has also recently published research about the risks and benefits of bisphosphonate therapy. According to their review of over 2,300 postmenopausal women, the agency stated that there was little reason to use Fosamax and its sister drugs for more than five years.
Sources: Webmd, yourlawyer.com