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What Are Bisphosphonate Drugs?

Reviewed on 12/30/2020

What Are Bisphosphonate Drugs Used For?

Bisphosphonate drugs are a class of medications that help prevent bone loss in osteoporosis and other conditions that can weaken the skeleton.
Bisphosphonate drugs are a class of medications that help prevent bone loss in osteoporosis and other conditions that can weaken the skeleton.

Bisphosphonate drugs work to slow bone loss. They target osteoclast cells that break down old bone and slow their activity, reducing bone breakdown. 

Bisphosphonates are used to:

  • Reduce the risk of hip and spine fractures in osteoporosis
  • Treat Paget's disease of bone
  • Prevent or slow bone disease and improve symptoms in people with myeloma
  • Prevent or reduce bone problems, including for pain relief, in some patients with advanced prostate cancer
  • Reduce the rate of early breast cancer recurrence in the bone in some postmenopausal women
  • Help some postmenopausal women with early breast cancer live longer 
  • Prevent complications from other cancers that have spread to the bones

What Are Some Examples of Bisphosphonate Drugs?

Bisphosphonate drugs include: 

What Are Side Effects of Bisphosphonate Drugs?

Side effects of bisphosphonate drugs are uncommon and may include: 

  • Itchy rash 
  • Photosensitivity (rash on exposure to sunlight)
  • Mouth soreness
  • Flu-like symptoms (more common with intravenous treatment)
  • Bone pain (more common with intravenous treatments)
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache

Rare side effects of bisphosphonate drugs include: 

  • Osteonecrosis of the jaw 
  • Slight increased risk of cancer of the esophagus 
  • Painful, partial or complete fractures in the upper, outer region of the thigh bone (femur) below the hip (extremely rare)
    • Risk is increased with extended use or concomitant steroid treatment or in patients who have diabetes

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Reviewed on 12/30/2020
References
https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/treatments/drugs/bisphosphonates/

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatment/bisphosphonates/how-bisphosphonates-work

https://globalrph.com/drugs/bisphosphonates/
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