Alendronic acid

Alendronic acid
Clinical data
Trade names Fosamax
AHFS/ Monograph
MedlinePlus a601011
  • C
Routes of
ATC code M05BA04 (WHO)
Legal status
Legal status
  • UK: POM (Prescription only)
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability 0.6%
Metabolism excreted unchanged
Biological half-life 126 months
Excretion renal
CAS Number 121268-17-5 N
PubChem (CID) 2088
DrugBank DB00630 YesY
ChemSpider 2004 YesY
KEGG D07119 N
Chemical and physical data
Formula C4H13NO7P2
Molar mass 249.097
3D model (Jmol) Interactive image
 NYesY (what is this?)  (verify)

Alendronic acid (INN) or alendronate sodium (USAN) — sold as Fosamax by Merck — is a bisphosphonate drug used for osteoporosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, and several other bone diseases. It is marketed alone as well as in combination with vitamin D (2,800 IU and 5,600 IU, under the name Fosamax+D). Merck's U.S. patent on alendronate expired in 2008 and the drug is now available as a generic. This is the most widely prescribed bisphosphonate medicine in the United States .

Pharmaceutical analysis

As with all potent bisphosphonates, the fraction of the drug that reaches the circulatory system intact (systemic bioavailability) after oral dosing is low, averaging only 0.6–0.7% in women and in men under fasting conditions. Intake together with meals and beverages other than water further reduces the bioavailability. The absorbed drug rapidly partitions, with approximately 50% binding to the exposed bone surface; the remainder is excreted unchanged by the kidneys. Unlike with most drugs, the strong negative charge on the two phosphonate moieties limits oral bioavailability, and, in turn, the exposure to tissues other than bone is very low. After absorption in the bone, alendronate has an estimated terminal elimination half-life of 10 years.[1]


Alendronate inhibits osteoclast-mediated bone-resorption. Like all bisphosphonates, it is chemically related to inorganic pyrophosphate, the endogenous regulator of bone turnover. But while pyrophosphate inhibits both osteoclastic bone resorption and the mineralization of the bone newly formed by osteoblasts, alendronate specifically inhibits bone resorption without any effect on mineralization at pharmacologically achievable doses. Its inhibition of bone-resorption is dose-dependent and approximately 1,000 times stronger than the equimolar effect of the first bisphosphonate drug, etidronate. Under therapy, normal bone tissue develops, and alendronate is deposited in the bone-matrix in a pharmacologically inactive form. For optimal action, enough calcium and vitamin D are needed in the body in order to promote normal bone development. Hypocalcemia should, therefore, be corrected before starting therapy.

Etidronate has the same disadvantage as pyrophosphate in inhibiting mineralization, but all of the potent N-containing bisphosphonates including Alendronate and also risedronate, ibandronate, and zoledronate, do not.

Clinical data

Treatment of post-menopausal women and people with osteogenesis imperfecta over the age of 22 with alendronic acid has demonstrated normalization of the rate of bone turnover, significant increase in BMD (bone mineral density) of the spine, hip, wrist and total body, and significant reductions in the risk of vertebral (spine) fractures, wrist fractures, hip fractures, and all non-vertebral fractures. In the Fracture Intervention Trial, the women with the highest risk of fracture (by virtue of pre-existing vertebral fractures) were treated with Fosamax 5 mg/day for two years followed by 10 mg/day for the third year. This resulted in approximately 50% reductions in fractures of the spine, hip, and wrist compared with the control group taking placebos. Both groups also took calcium and vitamin D.[2]


Contraindications and precautions




The risk of esophageal irritation places special requirements on how this oral drug is taken. The patient should take the drug only upon rising for the day with 8 oz. of water, and stand, walk, or sit, and remain fasting for 30–45 minutes afterwards (preferably 1–2 hours), then eat breakfast. No other medications should be taken for this time. Lying down or reclining after taking the drug and prior to eating breakfast may cause gastroesophageal reflux and esophageal irritation.

Alendronic acid 35 mg (as alendronate sodium 45.7 mg) oral tablet

Dosage forms


  1. Shinkai I, Ohta Y (January 1996). "New drugs--reports of new drugs recently approved by the FDA. Alendronate". Bioorg. Med. Chem. 4 (1): 3–4. doi:10.1016/0968-0896(96)00042-9. PMID 8689235.
  2. Black DM, Cummings SR, Karpf DB, Cauley JA, Thompson DE, Nevitt MC, Bauer DC, Genant HK, Haskell WL, Marcus R, Ott SM, Torner JC, Quandt SA, Reiss TF, Ensrud KE (December 1996). "Randomised trial of effect of alendronate on risk of fracture in women with existing vertebral fractures. Fracture Intervention Trial Research Group". Lancet. 348 (9041): 1535–41. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(96)07088-2. PMID 8950879.
  3. Sun K, Liu JM, Sun HX, Lu N, Ning G (October 2012). "Bisphosphonate treatment and risk of esophageal cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies". Osteoporosis International. 24 (1): 279–86. doi:10.1007/s00198-012-2158-8. PMID 23052941.
  4. Haber SL, McNatty D (March 2012). "An evaluation of the use of oral bisphosphonates and risk of esophageal cancer". Ann Pharmacother. 46 (3): 419–23. doi:10.1345/aph.1Q482. PMID 22333262.
  5. FDA Patient Safety News, March 2008
  6. Fosamax product description, Merck & Co
  7. Pazianas, M.; Miller P; Blumentals WA; Bernal M; Kothawala P (August 29, 2007). "A review of the literature on osteonecrosis of the jaw in patients with osteoporosis treated with oral bisphosphonates: prevalence, risk factors, and clinical characteristics". Clinical Therapy. 8 (8): 1548–58. doi:10.1016/j.clinthera.2007.08.008. PMID 17919538.
  8. Carini, F.; Barbano L; Saggese V; Monai D; Porcaro G. (2012-04-03). "Multiple systemic diseases complicated by bisphosphonate osteonecrosis: a case report.". Ann Stomatol (Roma). 3 (2 Suppl): 32–6. PMID 23285320.
  9. Lenart BA, Lorich DG, Lane JM (March 2008). "Atypical fractures of the femoral diaphysis in postmenopausal women taking alendronate". N. Engl. J. Med. 358 (12): 1304–6. doi:10.1056/NEJMc0707493. PMID 18354114. Lay summary US News & World Report.
  10. Weinstein RS, Roberson PK, Manolagas SC (January 2009). "Giant osteoclast formation and long-term oral bisphosphonate therapy". N. Engl. J. Med. 360 (1): 53–62. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0802633. PMC 2866022Freely accessible. PMID 19118304. Lay summary Washington Post.
  11. Kwek EB, Goh SK, Koh JS, Png MA, Howe TS (February 2008). "An emerging pattern of subtrochanteric stress fractures: a long-term complication of alendronate therapy?". Injury. 39 (2): 224–31. doi:10.1016/j.injury.2007.08.036. PMID 18222447.

External links

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