Oral bisphosphonate use peaked at 15.8 percent of women older than 55 in 2008, and topped out at 1.9% of men in 2010.
White women, rural residents and women with less than a high school degree were more likely to shift away from the drugs, the study found.
While there’s plenty of evidence that news reports influence health beliefs and behaviors, that may not be the main culprit in the case of bisphosphonates, said Andrew Grey, a bone researcher at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
That’s because the first reports of jaw bone damage for these drugs surfaced in 2003 and 2004, without leading to a drop in prescriptions, said Grey, who wasn’t involved in the study.
And newer medicines for osteoporosis introduced after 2006 may have siphoned sales from the decades-old bisphosphonates, he added.
“The inference that the media stories were a major influence on prescribing trends for bisphosphonates should be treated with caution,” Grey said by email.
Concerns about the safety of these drugs also overlooks the risks of failing to treat osteoporosis, noted Dr. Matthew Drake, a researcher in endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.
“For nearly all patients who are prescribed bisphosphonates, the risk of having a rare side effect is generally at least 100 times—and in many cases 1,000 or more times—less than the risk of suffering a fracture,” Drake, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.