Osteoporosis Medications Can Cause Gastrointestinal Discomfort

osteoporosisFifty-four percent of postmenopausal women in the United States have a low bone mass density, increasing their risk for hip and vertebral fractures. To combat this risk, a growing number of physicians are prescribing osteoporosis medications.

Bisphosphonate, an ingredient in medications such as Boniva, Actonel and Fosamax, has been linked to stomach pain, heartburn and ulcers. A recent Oxford University Study has revealed that taking these drugs could possibly double your chances of esophageal cancer, indicating that the risk of esophageal cancer increases slightly after just one dose of a bisphosphonate-containing medicine.

To date, the connection between bisphosphonates and esophageal cancer has not been confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration, nor has the FDA ordered label warnings for these medications. However, there is an increased incidence of gastrointestinal discomfort with these drugs.

Common side effects like stomach pain, heartburn and ulcers, though non-life-threatening, can negatively impact your day-to-day life. However, if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, these side effects can sometimes be lessened or avoided. The manufacturer advises:

  • Drink a full glass of water before taking medication
  • Take medication on an empty stomach
  • Sit upright and don’t drink or eat for at least 30 minutes after taking medication

If you are taking drugs that contain bisphosphonates and your symptoms cannot be controlled through these measures, talk with your doctor about alternative treatment options.