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November 18, 2008     Cape Gazette
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November 18, 2008

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28 TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 18- THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2008 HEALTH & FITNESS cape Gazette How safe are dru0000s for bones? e often are asked W about long-term side effects of medications peo, ple will be taking for a long time. Drugs to treat osteoporosis are usually taken for years, if not decades ,. The tests that the Food and Drug Admini'stration (FDA) re- . lies on to determine safety rarelg last more than a few weeks or months. As a result, there may  be significant delays before scl- ;,, entists learn about potentially . serious adverse drug reactions. That appears to be the case with the ostooporosis drugs called bispliosphonates. Some popular brands include Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax, Reclast and Zometa. Millions of women rely on these medications to keep their bones strong and prevent debili- tating fractures. They have been widely advertised on television as a way of maintaining an active lifestyle without worrying about breaking bones. A new report suggests that these medications are not in- nocuous. Earlier this year, the FDA issued a warning that such medications can sometimes cause severe, even incapacitat- ing muscle, bone or joint pain. Such admonitions frequently seem abstract. When you hear a disembodied voice during a TV commercial rattle off a string of side effectsi it may be hard to imagine that they might happen to you. One reader told us about her experience: "I took two doses of Boniva, a month apart. Follow- ing the fn'st dose, I experienced shooting pains in my arms and legs for about six hours but con- sidered this to be normal after I read the information that came with the prescription. "Following the second dose, I had severe flulike symptoms in- cludmg fever, unrelenting chills and spasms, and intense pains in all of my limbs. I was left with low back pain that made me double up after sitting for short periods of time. "The experience left me drained and debilitated for near- ly a month, and I am iust begin- ning to feel normal again." Debilitating pain is not the on- ly possible side effect of these medications that was discovered years after they were approved, Jawbone death - osteonecrosis of the jaw - is a rare but very seri- ous complication associated with bisphosphonate drugs. Oral surgeons worry about tooth extraction for women on these medications. More recently, researchers have discovered that such osteo- porosis drugs can increase the risk of an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. This condition can raise the risk of having a stroke. This problem is not listed in the orificial prescrib- ing information. One reader noted: "I took Fos- amax for osteoporosis for more than five years and then Boniva for one year. "I recently began experiencing shortness of breath when walk- ing or exercising. I could not f'mish a treadmill stress test, be- cause a rapid and irregular heartbeat - atrial fibrillation - was detected. "My doctor put me through lots of tests and then took me off Boniva. I now take metoprolol and warfarin for the atrial fibril- lation. Before all of this, I was an extremely healthy and active 67- year-old woman who walked two miles every day. The atrial fibrillation came on almost overnight." These medications offer bene- fits for those who can tolerate them, but the range of side ef- fects being discovered might make doctors a little more cau- tiousabout prescribing them in the future. Editor's note: Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or at Fund provides financial help for MS patients To help Delawareans with sclerosis], to support them in chapter recommends applica- multiple sclerosis achieve their dreams, the Arthur Stapler Memorial Adventure Fund is de- signed specifically to help ad- dress the emotional, social and personal development as well as the spiritual needs of the clients of the Delaware chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Soci- ety. Each small grant supports an individual in doing what may otherwise be impossible. For ex- ample, a series of golf lessons with assistive equipment, m't les- sons, a weekend getaway, the family reunion or an adventure" like skydiving can become a real- ity with grants from this fund. "We're excited about the pro- gram, and our clients are really excited," said Katrina Holloway who, as director of programs at the Delaware chapter, is respon- sible for oversight of the Arthur Stapler Memorial Adventure Fund. "It's very important for people to do something not nec- essarily related to their [multiple their dreams and aspirations as well as with programs and serv- ices and research into a cure" Grants will be awarded on an ongoing basis. The Delaware tions be submitted at least two months ahead of the activity needing funding. For more infor- mation and a copy of the applica  tion, call 302-655-5610. Do Back & Neck Pain? Tension in the Shoulders? Headaches? Insomnia? Poor Digestion? Numbness & Tingling in the ,-ms? Leg & Foot Pain? Fatigue. 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