Bone Drugs Linked to Alarming Destruction of Jaw Bone

prescription drugSince 2001, more than 2,400 patients taking Fosamax and other bone-building medications like it have reported bone death in their jaws, mostly after a minor trauma such as getting a tooth extracted. Most were taking especially potent, intravenously delivered versions of these drugs, which are known as bisphosphonates.

An additional 120 people who were taking bisphosphonates in pill form to prevent bone thinning have been stricken with such incapacitating bone, joint or muscle pain that some were bedridden and others required walkers, crutches or wheelchairs.

The incidence of both these complications is minuscule in comparison with the millions of people taking these medications. More than 36 million prescriptions for oral bisphosphonates, such as Actonel, Fosamax and Boniva, were dispensed in 2005, according to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information and consulting company. Nearly 3 million cancer patients have been treated with intravenous versions of the medications.

But because at least 90% of drug side effects aren’t reported to the Food and Drug Administration, the real number of people stricken with jaw necrosis and other side effects could be higher.

“We’ve uncovered about 1,000 patients [with jaw necrosis] in the past six to nine months alone, so the magnitude of the problem is just starting to be recognized,” says Kenneth M. Hargreaves, chair of the endodontics department at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

The rare side effect, called osteonecrosis of the jaw, causes severe infections, swelling and the loosening of teeth. Patients often require long-term antibiotic therapy or surgery to remove the dying bone tissue.

With concern growing over the possible side effect, the American Assn. of Endodontists released a position statement on the problem. “Until further information is available, it would appear prudent to consider all patients taking bisphosphonates to be at some risk,” the group said.

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Dr. Hyla Cass

Dr Hyla Cass is one of the country's foremost authors and speakers on the subject of integrative medicine. A former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine, she has incorporated nutrition and natural health techniques into her practice for more than 20 years.

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  1. Anonymous says

    I started waking up with headaches which seem to be a result of clenching of my jaws while I sleep. Now that I think of it the headaches started about the same time when I started taking Fosamax. The insert my dentist constructed which I am to use at night does not help, I still seem to clench my jaws. Someone suggested inositol (part of B vitamins) to take before sleep. This seems to help. I wonder if my problem is the result of taking Fosamax.

  2. Anonymous says

    I have been on Boniva for 5 years and just recently developed pain in my jaw and gum area on left side. Was badly swollen and infected. Having no dental insurance I put it off for a month and tried treating it myself…big mistake… got so bad I had no choice but to seek help. I now have a small portion of bone showing through on the top left side of gum….I wear dentures and was unable to even use them during this time.

    Dentist said this will never heal or I should say the skin will never grow back over this section of bone. Thanks Boniva :(
    Now I wonder what will happen if I stop this drug suddenly? But stop I will. I’d rather take my chances without Boniva.

    Last night I woke up from the dull ache in my jaw and couldn’t get back to sleep. Tried an ice pack hoping that would stop the ache, but needless to say I was up all night. I pray this won’t be a life long side effect from this drug.

    Maybe more of us Boniva sufferers should let the company know the problems we’re having. That’s the only way they’ll know their product is dangerous not just to a few but alot of us that haven’t spoke up yet…Now is the time to do it. Get this drug off the market.

  3. Anonymous says

    I have been taking Boniva a little over 3 yrs 1x mo dosage. I had root canal on a molar Oct ’08 and have pain in the tooth ever since which makes no sense since the nerves are dead. The dentist suggested I remove the tooth but when oral surgeon looked at my medical history, upon seeing I was on Boniva told me of the risks involved ie not healing, bone loss, jaw damage, bone pieces literally coming out thru wound. Why didn’t my md tell me of these risks. % may be low but it could happen to me. I went for a blood test to see how high my risk is and I am awaiting the results.
    I am scared to death and furious that the company didn’t think this a serious enough problem to list in their warnings. Also the drug co tests say it is 1% of people taking Boniva and all other osteoporosis rx’s that are at risk but oral surgeon told me that tests by drs this past Spring show it is 4%, significantly higher.

  4. B says

    I have been on oral Boniva 1X month for about 3 years. Like mentioned in the prior posting, I also need a tooth pulled. It is temporarily stable, but won’t last too many months as the crack is below the surface.
    The oral surgeon told me to take a CTX blood test (Collagen type I C- telepeptide), and unfortunately the result was not 150 or higher which would have indicated minimal risk. I am retaking the bloodtest after being off Boniva for a month, and we are trying to hold off on the surgery. My question is, “Is the CTX test a reliable marker?”
    I would be curious how oral surgery went for the prior posting person, and if the same blood test was ordered. My oral surgeon was concerned about me being on the drug (though less concerned because I had oral, not IV), yet my internist told me not to worry as most problems were with cancer patients. Neither my internist or my gynocologist seemed familiar with the blood test. I wish there was clearer information.

  5. Anonymous says

    I have been taking Boniva for 15 months. This morning I took it & within 10 minutes, my mouth turned red, my left cheek & lip were swollen, I was itchy with red blotches and pain in upper abdomen. I went to the ER & the gave me a steriod, histamine & antacid & sent me home. I have to continue this treatment here at home for 3 days. Interesting thing is that within the last 6 months I have had jaw pain, clenching (never had these symptoms before) and recently thought I had an infected tooth. I will not take Boniva again & do not know if I will take another calcium pill again. I took Actonel for a few years with no side effects, but it costs twice as much on my prescription plan. I may just return to Actonel or try Fosamax, if I have to.

  6. Anonymous says

    I was on Boniva monthly for over 5 years. I started with joint pain that increasing became severe. It was every joint in my body including back and neck/jaw pain. I went to my GP and had xrays of every joint in my body, each wrist, elbow, knee and ankle. They all cam back negative. I went to a wedding and my knees were throbbing after 1 dance!! Eventually went to an Endocronolgist who advise it was a side effect from bisphosphanates. Quit taking it immediately. After about 2 months I am pain and headached free! The benefit of taking this i not worth the RISK!! It is a fairly new drug, nd I bet will be pulled off the market in the near future. I bet there are many people who don’t associate the pains with the pill.

  7. Dana says

    I have taken Boniva for 3 years. Stopped for about a year, because of cost. And concern about some minor side effects I was having.

    In Dec. I lost a crown, not just the crown, the entire post came out also. The dentist told me that he could not replace it as the bone in my jaw is too soft and crumbly. He made me a Temporary” mouth piece with a tooth, that is painful for some reason, and told me to go back on the Boniva and come back in six months or so and he’ll try to put in a new crown.

    Six weeks ago, around March 10th, I lost another crown, including the post. I also have a piece of bone coming out of my lower gum. I am terrified that my crowns and teeth are all going to start falling out. My dental Insurance won’t cover the replacement of the crowns, so I am on my own.

    I need some suggestions of what else I can take, as I have had 2 neck surgeries and I know that I need to be on something to harden my bones. I’m 53 years old and am afraid I am going to end up an old hunched over toothless lady!

    Also curious if anybody else has had the same problems I am having. After reading these posts, I do know now why my teeth hurt so bad even after a root canal, and probably why I get the shooting nerve pain in my teeth.

  8. Anonymous says

    Upon taking the second doseof Boniva in pill form, I experienced severe problems in my jaws. I almost felt as though my jaws did not want to work. I also became very ill with aching in my body as if I had the flu. I felt very sick to my stomach when I tried to eat. This last for about a week after taking the medication. My doctor told me to discontinue and not to take any more. I will not have a problem with following her instructions. I wish I would have done more research before taking Boniva. I will continue to take large doses of Calcium with vitamin D, but nothing else for my condition.

  9. Big Pharma says

    I just want to say thank you to Sally Field for being in the commercials for Boniva – thanks Sally, for bringing pain and suffering to the masses.
    Big Pharma

  10. Linda Underwood says

    I have taken both fosomax and boniva for several years. I developed two years ago a severe pain in my jaw. I initially thought I had an ear infection. My doctor sent me to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist who, without touching me, diagnosed my problem as a deteriorated disc in my jaw. I am now wondering if this was caused by the medications?? I stopped boniva over six months ago and I am watching to see if my jaw shows any improvement.

    Has anyone had such an experience???

  11. Lori says

    Anyone taking “large” doses of calcium, even with vitamin D, should also be sure they’re getting plenty of K2 and magnesium. K2 dictates calcium deposition. Without it, we run the risk of calcium deposits in the arteries, joints, kidneys, brain and other soft tissue. The more calcium we take, the more magnesium is leached from tissue to help the body maintain a balance in the blood. And guess what…it’s these nutrients that helps us build and maintain strong bones. It’s strength we want, not just “density”. Dense bones can snap. Whether it’s fosamax or boniva, these drugs are dangerous. Not only do they cause jaw necrosis, but femur fractures and the possiblitiy of esophageal cancer as well. If you’re taking one of these drugs, go to it’s website and read every word of the prescribing information. We trust what our doctors tell us, which really comes from the pharmaceutical companies making gazillions on this stuff, and don’t do our own homework. And if you think that the pharmaceutical companies have our best health interest in mind…I have a bridge to sell you!

  12. Anonymous says

    I have been taking Boniva for 5 years. Recently, I developed a pain in my left jaw, which prevents me from being able to open my mouth fully. Sometimes, it is a shooting pain that I can feel in my ear. It is pretty scary. I stopped taking Boniva right away but still have the pain. I reported it to my doctor and going to see him tomorrow. Funny, they scheduled me right away. I usually have to wait months for an appointment. I have not had any over side effects and actually saw improvement in thinning hair and pain in my hands. It was good while it lasted but now it is time for something else.

  13. Anonymous says

    I started taking boniva on 1-6-10 and took it for 2months. now my teeth hurt every day of my life. i am miserable. 3 of my doctors say its postively the boniva. what can i do to get rid of the pain. i have taken percoset every day but its starting to not work anymore. i wish i have never heard of this drug.

  14. Marija B says

    I am a disabled person ,I fell in the snow and went to the clinic because there was pain in my chest. They scheduled me for a bone scan and prescribed Boniva. I took only one pill more than a month ago but now my foot is stiff and sore ,I need a special flat foot brace to walk,my arm has started to hurt as well.
    I have bad teeth and am waiting for my son to afford a dentist for me ,but they did not even check before prescribing this bad drug.
    Now I can only hope that worse does not happen and I can have my teeth fixed . I am so glad I did not take any more! My friend looked on -line and found out that they made this drug from soot
    scraped from a chimney,industrial waste full of toxins, it is a sin!

  15. Hallie says

    Hi! After treatment for breast cancer at age 55 in 2009, I was put on fosamax 1 X week, and then after side effects after 10 months, clenching of jaw and much pain 24/7 in jaw I switched to Boniva for a month. Both meds gave me a swollen tongue, mouth sores, and Boniva gave me hives around my neck area after 1 monthly dose. I stopped taking any priscription calcium 1 month ago. I am encouraged by the earlier user who said they felt fine after 2 months of stopping the meds. To me the daily pain is not worth it. I hope my clenching jaw pain goins away soon. Think I’ll just walk more and lift weights to help my bones. I will be reporting this to my primary and oncology doctors.

  16. Anonymous says

    i have been waking up with headaches that hurt like migrains and its been gettin ridicoulous. I went to the doctor for this and they gave me boniva but i got no clue what this is supposed to do. Someone help???+

  17. Lori says

    Anonymous 11/14 – Boniva is for bones – please do some homework before you take it!! Try a good chiropractor or massage therapist before taking drugs.

  18. Greta says

    I have been on Fosamax for about 3 years. A week ago I began to experience pain in my gums – weird because the area has no tooth in it. Last night I could barely sleep due to the pain and am making an appt. with my dentist this morning. I am very worried that I have the jaw condition which is one of side effects of Fosamax. Both my doctor and dentist says this condition is very rare -but now I’m wondering.

  19. Anonymous says

    I started Boniva in October 2011, and now, in February 2012, I am experiencing dizziness, a light-headed feeling, weakened muscles in my legs (really weak), an inability to walk without a cane, etc. Actually, this all begin right after the first of this year (2012) and has gotten worse. I will NOT be taking any additional Boniva even though my doctor claims he doesn’t think this is what is causing my problems. Baloney! I have read enough other posts on various web sites that all describe my side effects to the letter! I have NEVER had these problems before. I imagine he, like many doctors today, has some contract with the company that manufactures this poison!

    To me, Boniva is indeed a poison, and I really don’t think it should even be on the market. It affects too many people adversely, including me! As far as those old commercials with Sally Field (notice they don’t run those on TV any more), she can take her Boniva and stick it up her you know what! Bisphosphonates are NOT what they are cracked up to be in my opinion. And yet, the doctors (many of them) tell people to keep taking it, even though the side effects are intolerable. When the cure is worse than the condition, I say stick with the condition and forget the cure.

  20. Anonymous says

    I am so glad that I read all these comments! Thanks to each of you for taking the time to write them to warn people that are considering taking these drugs! My dr wanted to start me on Boniva 2 years ago due to a diagnosis of osteopenia, I declined and said that I wanted to try a stronger dose of calcium first and see how that works. I had a dexa scan a couple of weeks ago and have an appointment to discuss taking one of these drugs to see if it would increase my bone density. After reading what others have written here, I think I’ll just stick with the calcium and get some K2 and magnesium!
    Thanks again for the information!

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