By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The FDA is cautioning women over the long-term use of drugs used to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

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Medicines like Boniva and Fosamax are prescribed to help build bone strength and prevent fracture.  But the FDA review, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that after three to five years of use, the risks may outweigh the benefits of this class of drugs called bisphosphonates.

“For patients who are on it for a long time, the issue is whether they are predisposed for pathologic fractures,” such as of the femur or jaw, says Dr. Mitchell Freedman, the director of physical medical
rehabilitation at the Rothman Institute at Jefferson.

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Freedman says the recommendation is for the patient to go on a drug holiday after three to five years.  Talk to your doctor before making any change to your prescription intake.

“The goal is to lessen the likelihood of fracture,” he says.  “Because once you fracture, there’s an increased incidence of death in the next few years.”

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And, Freedman says, don’t forget natural defenses against bone breakdown: exercise, calcium, Vitamin D, sun exposure, and keep up with bone density scans.