Drug companies exaggerate the benefits and downplay the risks of prescribing bone-strengthening drugs for women whose bones are weakened but who do not have osteoporosis, a new report claims.
Drugs such as alendronate and risedronate do reduce the risk of fractures of women with osteoporosis, according to the article in the Jan. 19 issue of BMJ.
Alendronate is a bisphosphonate drug used for osteoporosis and several other bone diseases. It is marketed alone as well as in combination with vitamin D (2,800 U and 5600 U, under the name Fosamax+D). Merck's U.S. patent on alendronate is set to expire in 2008 and Merck has lost a series of appeals to block a generic version of the drug from being certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Risedronate sodium is a bisphosphonate used to strengthen bone, treat or prevent osteoporosis, and treat Paget's disease of bone. It is produced and marketed by Procter & Gamble and Sanofi-Aventis.
In January 2006 P&G and its marketing partner Sanofi-Aventis filed a Lanham Act false claims lawsuit against rival drugmakers Roche and GlaxoSmithKline claiming false advertising about Boniva. The manufacturers of Boniva, a rival bisphosphonate, were accused in the suit of causing a "serious public health risk" through misrepresentation of scientific findings. In a ruling on on September 7 2006 U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty rejected P&G's attempted injunction. P&G was criticized for attempting to "preserve its market share by denigrating Boniva". Judge Crotty wrote that "Roche was clearly entitled to respond with its own data, provided that the data was truthfully and accurately presented".
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