Lying on a hospital bed, aged 70 and 2 months, recovering from a fractured femur, I have gone through stages as I come to terms with this latest stage of my health journey. I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis since before my third pregnancy in 1980-81, and the simple drug that helped me then is still the drug of choice, after several vain attempts with other standard drugs and 3 of the newer biological ones, which may have been a help but caused too many side effects or infections and had to be abandoned. The worst of these was contracting TB, with night sweats and weight loss. Then osteoporosis was diagnosed and treatment started 8 years ago, ending dramatically this year with a sudden unexpected fracture of my right femur, which apparently was caused by the very drug I had been prescribed to strengthen my bones!
At first I googled it and sent links to warn any of my friends who might be taking the drug, then heard that many people in America were refusing to take it because of the statistically small risk of fracture. Anger followed when I realised that as well as having to cancel my New York holiday, I might have difficulty getting insurance in future, as other bones might still be fragile. Talking to the nursing staff while in hospital, I have been advised that I should have been having a yearly medication review. If this had been done, it was without my knowledge, or without any changes being made. I have had a couple of dexascans, and was asked to stop the drug for a short time, but advised to start again after a fractured wrist in 2014.
I am concerned now that other bones may also be fragile due to taking the drug for 8 years overall. We are totally in the hands of doctors who make decisions on our health. And today I ventured out with a lift in a friend’s car, to confront my GP with what had happened. As you may have guessed, he refused to take responsibility for my ‘accident’, saying that it was my rheumatology hospital specialist who put me on this drug and it was up to them to tell me when to stop! They had in fact just been alerted to the risk of fractures with alendronic acid, and had looked at my file as a test case, deciding in their wisdom that as I had had a previous fracture and another fall, I should continue on with the drug! So having acquired from him all the relevent dates of diagnosis (RA and osteoporosis) and surgery and hospital visits, the next step is to tak to the Patient and Client Council, who advise on how to make a complaint!