Long-term safety of bisphosphonate therapy for osteoporosis: A review of the evidence

Uri A. Liberman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article reviews the long-term safety profile of bisphosphonates for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Bisphosphonates inhibit osteoclastic resorption and reduce the rate of bone turnover, thereby reducing fracture risk. Placebo-controlled trials of oral amino-bisphosphonates of up to 4 years' duration and continuous treatment for up to 10 years in extensions of these trials (without continuous placebo comparison groups) have reported that bone quality remains normal, and suggest that the early reductions in fracture risk may be sustained for as long as treatment continues. Studies in animals using high doses of bisphosphonates have also reported normal quality bone with increased strength. The adverse experience profile (including upper gastrointestinal tolerability) of the oral bisphosphonates alendronic acid and risedronic acid has been similar to placebo in randomised trials with thousands of participants, whereas the incidence of flu-like symptoms was increased with the high doses used in oral monthly and intravenous ibandronic acid. Thus, the existing data are reassuring for long-term continued daily (or its weekly equivalent) administration of alendronic acid and risedronic acid, with no evidence of an adverse effect on bone health. For other dosing regimens, additional data are needed to evaluate their long-term safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-298
Number of pages10
JournalDrugs and Aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006


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