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Osteoporosis Drugs: Too often they weaken the bones
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It's common for drugs to have a "paradoxical effect"

It's common for drugs to have a "paradoxical effect". This is medicalese for stating that the drug can cause the very symptoms it's supposed to be treating.

Another example of the paradoxical effect has just been uncovered by researchers, who've been reviewing bone-strengthening drugs known as biophosphonates, which are regularly given for osteoporosis.

In addition to helping build bone density, the drugs are also supposed to treat cancer-related bone lesions, and elevated calcium levels in the blood.

In fact, they very often do the reverse, and they can dramatically increase the risk of jaw or facial bone deterioration or infection.

Researchers examined the data on 14,000 cancer patients who were treated with one of two types of biophosphonates - pamidronate or zoledronic acid - and compared their progress with 28,000 patients who weren't given the drugs.

After six years, around 5.5 per cent - or 770 - of those taking the drugs needed facial or jaw bone surgery, or were diagnosed with inflammation of the jaw bone, compared with just 0.3 per cent of the non-drug group.

(Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2007; 1016-24).

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