There have been reports claiming that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of patients in the United States who were diagnosed with esophageal cancer while on bisphosphonates, particularly taking in Fosamax. The time frame of these instances of esophageal cancer falls between the initial marketing of Fosamax in October 1995 all the way to mid-May 2008. Currently, there are no similar reports for other oral bisphosphonates in the FDA database for adverse-event reporting. Unfortunately, by the time that the study was released, there had been eight deaths among the 23 reported cancer patients. Another problem that must also be taken into account is regarding bisphosphonate overdose.
The study indicates that of the 23 patients, 18 were women with the average age of 74 years old. Out of the 14 patients who provided dosage information, eight were reported to have taken Fosamax at a dose of 10 mg per day; five were reported to have taken 70 mg per week; and one was reported to have taken Fosamax "once per week."
The average time that Fosamax was used ranged to about two years per patient. It is also indicated that not all information about the risk factors for all patients was provided, however one patient took Fosamax despite having Barrett's Esophagus, a precursor of esophageal adenocarcinoma. Other risk factors for these patients may have included smoking, drinking and heavy acid reflux.
The FDA also goes on to say that a larger population size is needed to secure the link between cancer and Fosamax use. The largest problem that many esophageal cancer patients have is that the symptoms of the early stages of this cancer are not usually apparent.
When esophageal cancer begins to advance into its later stages, the most common symptoms that show are difficulty swallowing, spitting up blood and sudden weight loss. This particular bisphosphonate drug may also cause several other Fosamax side effects, which may include low-impact bone fractures. As for other types of bisphosphonates, studies are being done in order to know if it has similar effects as Fosamax.