Easy-to-read medicine information about alendronate – what is it, how to take alendronate safely and possible side effects.
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What is alendronate?
- Alendronate is used to treat bone disease such as osteoporosis and Paget's disease.
- Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to be thinner and weaker than normal. This means that they can break (fracture) easily, such as after a small bump or fall. In osteoporosis alendronate prevents bone loss, increases bone thickness and lowers your risk of spine and hip fractures.
- In Paget's disease, abnormal bone growth causes deformity and pain. Alendronate can help with this.
- It belongs to a group of medicines known as bisphosphonates.
- Alendronate is available as a tablet.
- It is also available in combination with colecalciferol (vitamin D), called Fosamax Plus®.
- The usual dose of alendronate for the treatment of osteoporosis is 70 mg (1 tablet) ONCE A WEEK (every 7 days).1
- If you are taking alendronate for Paget's disease, the usual dose is 40 mg once a day.1
- Always take your alendronate exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much alendronate to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.
How to take alendronate
It is very important that you carefully follow the instructions of how to take alendronate safely. If not taken properly, alendronate can irritate or burn the food pipe (or oesophagus).
- Take alendronate on the same day each week. To help you remember choose a day that best suits your routine, for example every Monday.
- Take alendronate first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything else, including other medicines.
- Do not take alendronate at bedtime or while lying in bed.
- Take alendronate with a full glass of water.
- Do not take your alendronate tablet with mineral water, tea, coffee, milk or juice, as these interfere with the absorption of alendronate into your body.
- Swallow the tablet whole — do not crush or chew. (Mouth ulcers may occur if the tablet is chewed or dissolved in the mouth)
- Stay upright for at least 30 minutes after taking alendronate. Do not lie down for at least 30 minutes, and do not take any food, drinks or medicines during this time.
- If you forget to take your alendronate, just take it the next morning. Then take one tablet once a week, as before.
- If you are unwell and cannot sit or stand upright for 30 minutes after taking alendronate, skip that day’s dose and do not take it until you are feeling better. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you need to miss more than 2 or 3 doses.
Precautions — before taking alendronate
- Do you have any difficulties swallowing?
- Are you unable to sit upright for at least 30 minutes?
- Have you had a stomach ulcer, stomach bleeding or any surgery on your upper digestive system within the last year?
- Are planning to have any dental treatment in the near future?
- Do you have any problems with the way your kidney or liver works?
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding?
- Are you taking any other medicine (including over-the-counter and herbal products)?
If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor before you start taking alendronate. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.
Possible side effects
Like all medicines, alendronate can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.
Osteonecrosis of the jaw
This is a problem with the jaw, where there is delayed healing in the mouth usually following dental procedures. This is very rare. It is best to:2,3
- Take good care of your teeth and mouth (brush your teeth twice a day and floss between your teeth).
- Have regular dental check-ups.
- If you need any dental treatment, have this done before taking alendronate.
- Let your dentist know that you are taking alendronate.
- Talk to your doctor or dentist if you have loose teeth, tooth pain, or swelling or numbness in your jaw.
Other side effects
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Alendronate may interact with a number of important medications and herbal supplements so check with your doctor or pharmacist.
Medsafe Consumer Information Sheets:
- Alendronic acid New Zealand Formulary [accessed April 2017]
- Osteonecrosis: A Pain in the Jaw Medsafe Prescriber Update 33(2): 13-14 June 2012
- Osteonecrosis Of The Jaw And Bisphosphonates - Putting The Risk In Perspective Medsafe Publications, October 2007
- Reminder: Keeping an eye on bisphosphonates Medsafe Prescriber Update 32(3): 24 September 2011
- An update on bisphosphonates BPAC, November 2014
- Fosamax Medsafe Datasheet