The safety of osteoporosis medication
Osteoporosis is a common, costly and serious disease, which is still too often regarded as an inevitable part of the normal ageing process and therefore sub-optimally treated, especially in the elderly – in fact, only two out of every 10 patients who sustain a hip fracture receive any form of assessment or prophylactic therapy for osteoporosis. One out of five patients die within 1 year after a hip fracture, and <50% are capable of leading an independent life. Yet very effective anti-fracture therapy, capable of reducing fracture risk by 35 - 60%, is available. A number of publications have recently questioned the safety of drugs routinely used to treat patients with osteoporosis. This paper attempts to put the situation into perspective and expresses the National Osteoporosis Foundation of South Africa’s view on the safety of these drugs. Their efficacy in preventing skeletal fractures and their cost-effectiveness are not addressed in any detail. The paper emphasises the fact that all osteoporosis medications have side-effects, some of which are potentially life-threatening.