Objective: To examine the impact of a national current affairs television program about the association between osteonecrosis of the jaw and bisphosphonates on subsequent prescription use, fractures and deaths.
Design and setting: National Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription data for 9 months after the television program were used to estimate the impact of reduced bisphosphonate use on fractures and mortality.
Main outcome measures: Prescription rates, fractures and deaths.
Results: The estimated reduction of 29 633 in the number of bisphosphonate prescriptions may have resulted in 70 hip fractures, 60 other fractures and 14 deaths that would otherwise have been prevented over the 9-month period of the study.
Conclusion: Although it is important for patients to be informed of the risks of medication, media coverage that does not present a balanced view has the potential to do more harm than good.