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Bisphosphonates – Bisphosphonates & ONJ

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Bisphosphonates (also called diphosphonates) are a family of drugs that inhibit the loss of bone mass that is associated with a number of bone diseases, notably osteoporosis and osteitis deformans (Paget's disease). During the normal growth and aging process, new bone material is produced by the body, while existing bone material is absorbed. This cycling process maintains bone mass at a given level. When a person has a bone disease, such as osteoporosis, more bone is being absorbed than is being produced. This causes the bones to become porous and weaken.

To facilitate the bone absorption process, the body contains naturally occurring cells called osteoclasts that are responsible for causing the breakdown of bone tissue. In order to create a balance between bone absorption and bone creation, treatments for osteoporosis focus on slowing the absorption process. Bisphosphonate drugs bind with these osteoclasts, thereby destroying them, slowing the bone absorption process and inhibiting their detrimental effects on bone density levels.

One of the most popular drugs used to treat bone disease is Fosamax. Unfortunately, Fosamax has been found to cause severe side effects in some patients. Numerous lawsuits have been filed by patients seeking to obtain compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering. If you believe you have developed osteonecrosis or another debilitating condition as a result of taking Fosamax, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Types of Bisphosphonate Drugs

Bisphosphonate drugs are divided into two main categories: nitrogenous bisphosphonates and non-nitrogenous bisphosphonates. The obvious difference between the two is that nitrogenous bisphosphonates contain nitrogen while non-nitrogenous bisphosphonates do not.

Nitrogenous bisphosphonates include:

  • Alendronate
  • Pamidronate
  • Risedronate
  • Zoledronate
  • Olpadronate
  • Ibandronate
  • Neridronate

Non-nitrogenous bisphosphonates include:

  • Tiludronate
  • Etidronate
  • Clodronate


While the various types of bisphosphonate drugs have proven to be effective in treating a number of bone diseases, they have also been linked with the development of a serious bone condition called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). If you have been diagnosed with osteonecrosis after taking a bisphosphonate drug, you may benefit from speaking to an attorney familiar with settlements and lawsuits involving defective drugs

Osteonecrosis of the Jaw

Osteonecrosis of the jaw, or "dead jaw," is a type of bone disease that can be excruciatingly painful and disfiguring. Someone suffering from ONJ will likely experience a variety of symptoms that can include localized pain in the jaw and/or maxillofacial region, a feeling of numbness or altered sensation, the loosening of teeth, soft tissue infections and/or the exposure of jawbone within the oral cavity.

Osteonecrosis itself is typically associated with the larger joints of the body, including the hips, shoulders, ankles and knees. There are between 10,000 and 20,000 new cases of osteonecrosis diagnosed each year in the United States. If left untreated this irreversible bone disease can culminate in the death of jawbone tissue, as well as joint collapse.

ONJ & Bisphosphonates

Researchers are uncertain as to why the use of some bisphosphonate drugs can lead to the development of ONJ. It has been suggested that bisphosphonates prevent the formation of new blood vessels within bone tissue, inhibiting the natural healing process and allowing for the degradation of bone mass.

Estimates suggest that more than 125 cases of ONJ have been linked to the use of bisphosphonate drugs. More often than not, the bone disease has been linked with pamidronate and zoledronate; however, a number of recent cases have been linked with use of the oral bisphosphonate drug alendronate.

Fosamax & Osteonecrosis of the Jaw

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of developing a case of osteonecrosis of the jaw from the use of Fosamax, you may be able to reach a settlement with those responsible for your illness; alternatively you may be able to receive compensation for your pain and suffering by filing a lawsuit. Contact a personal injury lawyer to get information on Fosamax victims' rights learn more about filing your lawsuit for Fosamax leg fractures.

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