visitors reported Fosamax effects years before medical lit

Patient-oriented Internet sites may help identify adverse effects early in a drug's post-market history, blogs Martha Rosenberg on alternative-media platform AlterNet.

At the site, which gives medicine ratings and healthcare opinions, visitors have shared their experiences with Merck's osteoporosis drug Fosamax, Rosenberg writes. It's one of the 2,500 drugs included, according to the site.

Fosamax has garnered close to 900 patient rankings. The drug-takers describe their experiences in "side effects" and "comments" fields that are presented spreadsheet-fashion on the site, along with other patient data and identification of the condition for which the drug was prescribed.

Many patients describe side effects in detail, whereas the side effects were not found or their severity was less during clinical trials, which were ended early with the drug's FDA approval. In addition, Rosenberg notes that some of the Fosamax entries appeared "years before medical journals, the FDA and ABC news 'discovered' the side effects."

Rosenberg maintains that drug safety and efficacy "data" were available on the site as early as 2001, but unused as a post-market surveillance tool. Yet the data turned out to be correct--or at least useful as a clinical research data point--and it was available three years before respected medical journals began reporting problems in 2004 and seven years before the FDA issued a warning.

- here's the blog