Alendronic acid is a medication prescribed to treat osteoporosis in post-menopausal women to help retard the acceleration of bone loss. It might prevent hip fractures and help rebuild bone density in the spinal column if used over a period of time. Alendronic acid is marketed under the brand name Fosamax® and contains vitamin D to increase the amount of calcium absorption by the bones. The drug is also recommended for men with osteoporosis.
In younger people, bone breaks down continuously, but is replaced with new bone growth. After a certain age, bone degenerates faster than the body is able to produce new bone. This leads to thin and brittle bones and a higher risk of fractures. Alendronic acid might boost bone density and allow the body to absorb extra calcium to aid in building new bone.
During menopause, a woman’s body produces fewer hormones, which accelerates the thinning of bone mass. This degeneration is commonly more pronounced in the first 10 years after the onset of menopause. Doctors typically recommend alendronic acid after the 10-year period to rebuild bones that have become fragile.
Fosamax® is taken once each week on the same day of the week with a full glass of water. Patients should not eat or drink anything else for 30 minutes after taking the drug to give the stomach time to absorb the medication. Patients also are advised to sit or stand for a half hour to ward off indigestion or heartburn, which is a common side effect of alendronic acid.
Other side effects linked to alendronic acid include flatulence, nausea after eating, bloating and stomach pain. People who have esophageal problems or trouble swallowing should check with their doctors before taking this drug. It is also not recommended for pregnant women or mothers who are breastfeeding.
Some patients who use this drug complain of headaches or pain in their joints, bones and muscles. Others suffer from bouts of constipation or diarrhea, with black stools that have a tar-like consistency. A red skin rash that may itch is another side effect reported by people using the medication.
A rare condition of the jaw might occur in people with cancer or those who do not receive regular dental care and exhibit poor oral hygiene habits. The manufacturer of Fosamax® does not recommend dental extractions or dental surgery while taking the drug, especially in people who have gum disease. Dental treatment is advised before a person begins taking alendronic acid.