Andrew Sturrock, University of Sunderland
This project is funded through the UKCPA-PRUK Clinical Pharmacy Research Grant.
A group of drugs called bisphosphonates are used to treat a number of conditions that effect bones, such
as osteoporosis and certain cancers. Because we are living longer, more patients are being prescribed
these drugs than ever before and a rare but important side effect, called osteonecrosis of the jaw, has
This side effect causes problems with patient’s jawbones, particularly if patients require a dental
extraction. This unpleasant and painful condition which is characterised by exposure of necrotic bone,
can be very difficult to treat and usually requires surgery to cut away part of the jawbone. Due to the
difficulty in treating this condition, healthcare professionals should try to prevent it from happening in
the first place.
We should be discussing this risk with patients and advising that they get a dental check-up before and
during bisphosphonate treatment. Current evidence suggests that this does not happen, patients are
unaware of the problem and knowledge of this risk is poor amongst patients and healthcare
This study is designed to look at the attitudes of patients towards this risk, the ways in which we can
minimise this risk and how we can work better as a team to prevent it from occurring. To do this the
research team will carry out a number of in depth interviews with patients to explore their perspectives.
The interviews will be anonymised, transcribed and analysed to identify themes. These themes will then
be discussed back with some of the original participants in a focus group, giving the opportunity for the
participants to comment further on the themes identified in the study.
The results of this project may help with the development of services that can reduce the risk of patients
experiencing osteonecrosis of the jaw and to gain an understanding of the role of each healthcare
professional in the management of this condition.
This project started in January 2017 and finished in June 2018.
The final report is available to view on this page.