Osteoporosis medicines ‘do not run cancer risks’

THE Irish Medicines Board said it did not consider certain medications for osteoporosis could increase the risk of cancer.

This follows a study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which found that long-term use of bisphosphonates may double the risk of oesophageal cancer.

Oral bisphosphonates such as Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, are frequently given to treat or prevent bone disease and can have gastrointestinal side-effects, such as nausea and abdominal pain.

Experts from the University of Oxford’s cancer epidemiology unit and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) analysed data from a UK GP practice database on around six million people.

Among those aged 40 and over, 2,954 had oesophageal cancer, 2,018 had gastric cancer and 10,641 had bowel cancer, all diagnosed between 1995 and 2005.

The experts looked at the use of oral bisphosphonates and cancers of the oesophagus, stomach and bowel, taking into account factors such as smoking, alcohol and body mass index.

The results showed that the chance of oesophageal cancer was 30% higher in people with one or more previous prescriptions for oral bisphosphonates compared to people who had never taken the drugs. The risk was almost double for those who had 10 or more prescriptions compared with those who had had between one and nine.

However, the IMB said it was aware of the recent publications and has not concluded that bisphosphonates could increase the risk of cancer.

“As for all medicines, the IMB continues to monitor the available evidence on the benefits and risks of bisphosphonates, including data from observational studies,” a spokesperson said. “At this time, the IMB believes that the benefits of these medicines continue to outweigh their potential risks.”

The IMB recommends that these medicines continue to be used as recommended in their approved product information.”

The British equivalent to the IMB, the MHRA said on the basis of the findings of this study there is no need for patients to stop taking their bisphosphonate medicine.


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