Zometa is used to treat high blood calcium levels (hypercalcemia) that may occur with cancer. Zoledronic acid is used with cancer chemotherapy to treat bone problems that may occur with multiple myeloma and other types of cancer. Zometa lowers blood calcium levels by reducing the amount of calcium released from the bones into the blood. It also works by slowing the breakdown of the bones by cancer to prevent bone fractures.
Side effects include may include dizziness, headache, or flu-like symptoms. Effects in general are mild and temporary; post-marketing reports have included weight gain, or more uncommonly pyrexia, asthenia, fatigue, or malaise persisting for greater than 30 days. More serious side effects of Zometa may include femur fractures, esophageal cancer, osteonecrosis of the jaw/dead jaw syndrome, atrial fibrillation, and severe musculoskeletal pain.
Dead jaw syndrome has been associated with the use of high levels of bisphosphonates, including Zometa. It has also been observed in post-menopausal women taking the drug for osteoporosis. The link to dead jaw syndrome has led to various lawsuits since the drug’s release. A jury in New York found Novartis, Zometa’s manufacturer, liable for $10.45 million in damages to a woman taking the drug who developed dead jaw syndrome. Evidence suggests that Novartis knew about the risk of jaw decay years before it began warning patients.