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Fosamax FAQs

Q: What is Fosamax?

A: Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is a prescription medicine used to prevent or treat osteoporosis in women after menopause, and to treat osteoporosis in men. Fosamax is also used to treat Paget's disease. Fosamax prevents bone breakdown and increases bone density (thickness) to make bones stronger and less likely to break. Fosamax is a bisphosphonate drug made by Merck and Company, Inc., and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1999.

Q: What is Osteoporosis?

A: Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become thin and weak and break easily. Osteoporosis may have natural causes or may be found in men and women who have taken corticosteroids.

Q: What is Paget's disease?

A: Paget's disease is a medical condition in which the body replaces healthy bones with weak bones.

Q: Are there any special instructions for taking Fosamax?

A: Fosamax should be taken on an empty stomach with a full glass (6 to 8 oz.) of plain water at least 30 minutes before taking any other food, beverage, or medicine. You should not lie down for 30 minutes after taking Fosamax.

Q: Has there been any recent news about Fosamax?

A: There have been recent reports linking Fosamax to a serious side effect called Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ) or 'jaw death.' ONJ is a medical condition in which the jawbone partially crumbles and dies. ONJ may cause severe pain, loose teeth, exposed bone, loss of function, and disfigurement. Fosamax maker Merck and Company, Inc., has stated that ONJ is rare, and that in controlled clinical trials involving more than 17,000 patients, there were no reports of ONJ. Most researchers and doctors interviewed in recent news reports appear to believe that the benefits of bisphosphonate drugs greatly outweigh the risks, and say that they will continue prescribing these medicines to their patients.

Q: What are the side effects associated with Fosamax?

A: The most common side effect associated with Fosamax is abdominal pain. Other less common side effects include difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing; new or worsening heartburn; chest pain; upset stomach; vomiting; bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; black, tarry, or bloody stools; mouth sores or pain in the mouth; itching; hives; swelling of eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat; hoarseness; eye pain; flu-like symptoms; fever; irritation or pain of the esophagus; and muscle pain. Skin rash is a rare side effect, but may be severe and worsen with exposure to sunlight.

Other side effects, which usually do not need medical attention, unless they are persistent or bothersome, include constipation, diarrhea, a full or bloated feeling, gas, change in ability to taste food, headache, nausea, and pain in bones, muscles, or joints.

Q: What should I tell my healthcare professional before he or she prescribes Fosamax?

A: Before or while taking Fosamax, you should tell your healthcare professional if you have or have had any unusual allergic reaction to Fosamax or to any other foods, preservatives, or dyes. Tell your healthcare professional if you are or may become pregnant, or if you are breast-feeding.

Also, tell your healthcare professional if you have or have had difficulty swallowing, as well as kidney problems, heartburn, ulcers, low levels of calcium in your blood, frequent muscle cramps or spasms, or osteomalacia (softening of bones due to a lack of vitamin D).

Tell your healthcare professional if you are unable to sit or stand upright 30 minutes to feed yourself, or if you are on any special diets (such as a low-sodium or low-sugar diet).

Q: Are there any interactions between Fosamax and other drugs or foods?

A: Fosamax and certain other medicines can interact with each other. Tell your healthcare professional about all the medicines you take -- including prescription and non-prescription medicines. Be sure to tell your healthcare professional if you take aspirin or products that contain aspirin. Also tell your healthcare professional if you take antacids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen and naproxen), doxycycline (Doryx, Vibramycin), quinidine (Quinaglute), tetracycline (Sumycin), or calcium, iron, or potassium supplements.

Q: What should I do if I think I have been injured as a result of taking Fosamax?

A: 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. It may also be in your best interests to consult with a product liability attorney to discuss your legal options and to protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Fosamax use.

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