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Oral osteoporosis meds appear to reduce the risk of jaw degradation
Date:1/2/2008

BOSTON, Mass. (Jan. 2, 2008) Athanasios Zavras began receiving messages from distraught patients in 2005 after case reports linked oral osteoporosis meds to bone death in the jaw. A number of doctors and dentists advised women and men taking these drugs to postpone dental work, fearing that procedures such as tooth extractions would exacerbate the problem. Thats when Zavras, an associate professor in the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, decided to take a closer look at the purported link.

After analyzing the medical claims of 714,217 people, Zavras, along with Vassiliki Cartsos at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and Shao Zhu of Ingenixi3 Drug Safety (the company that provided medical claims data), have concluded that oral osteoporosis meds seem to reduce the risk of jaw degradation. Clinical studies are needed to replicate and clarify the results, which appear in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

This is good news for the roughly 3 million Americans who take Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva or similar osteoporosis meds orally, says Zavras, who is also director of dental public health in the Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology.

The drugs, which are called bisphosphonates, inhibit cells that break down bone tissue, and a growing number of Americans with osteoporosis or low bone mass ingest them orally to halt bone loss. In fact, they have been used for this purpose since 1977. Some cancer patients also rely on bisphosphonates to prevent bone fragility and metastasis, but these individuals typically receive potent intravenous versions of the drugs.

In 2003, case reports linked the potent versions to bone death in the jaw, and subsequent studies confirmed the statistical significance of the association. Concern was limited to intravenous bisphosphonates until May 2005, when the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery published a report on 63 patients with bone death in
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Contact: Alyssa Kneller
public_affairs@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0442
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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