What Is Zolendronic Acid (Zometa)?

Overview

Zometa (zolendronic acid) is a bisphosphonate medication that is indicated for individuals with bone metastases from tumors (cancer that has spread to the bones). Zometa can be used with other cancer medications, such as chemotherapy. Zometa is also indicated for the treatment of hypercalcemia of malignancy, otherwise known as excess calcium in the body as a result of cancer that has spread to the bones. In prostate cancer, Zometa can be used after an individual’s cancer has progressed after exposure to at least one hormone therapy. When used to treat cancer that has spread to the bones, Zometa is given as an intervenous (IV) infusion once every 3-4 weeks. Zometa is often co-administered with oral calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Individuals taking Zometa should be monitored for dehydration, changes in kidney function, changes to the jaw bone, extreme joint, muscle or bone pain, hypocalcemia (too little calcium in the blood), and femoral bone fractures.1

What are the ingredients in Zometa?

The active ingredient in Zometa is zolendronic acid, the bisphosphonate.

How does Zometa work?

Zometa’s active ingredient is a bisphosphonate that slows down the bone destruction process, also called bone resorption. Our bodies are continuously building and destroying our bones in a balanced process. Cells in our body called osteoclasts regularly break down bone to release minerals, like calcium into our blood stream. Our body also builds bone using cells called osteoblasts, and takes these nutrients out of the blood and puts them back into our bones when needed. This process is critical to our skeletal stability and maintaining our nutrient balance.

When cancer metastasizes, it can destroy bones, and add to the normal, healthy bone destruction process. At this point, bone destruction can outweigh bone growth. When bones are broken down too quickly, excess calcium is released into the blood and our bones get weaker. This can lead to hypercalcemia, or too much calcium in the blood, as well as to bone pain and fractures. By slowing down the bone destruction process, the bone building process can catch up. When our body builds bone, it utilizes calcium in the blood stream, keeping our nutrients in balance, as well as increases our skeletal stability. This can help reduce bone pain and decrease the risk of fractures. Zometa also helps reduce hypercalcemia and its symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, and kidney stones.1

What are the possible side effects of Zometa?

Multiple clinical trials evaluated the safety and efficacy of Zometa across many different conditions. The most common side effects of Zometa include nausea, fatigue, anemia (low iron in the blood), constipation, vomiting, fever, bone pain, diarrhea, and problems breathing This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of Zometa. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist for further information.1

Things to note about Zometa

Several serious side effects can accompany Zometa including potentially developing severe musculoskeletal pain, femoral bone fractures, or destruction of the jaw. It’s important to take good care of your teeth and visit your dentist prior to starting Zometa, as well as let them know that you will be taking the medication. Alert your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe bone, joint, or muscle pain
  • Loosening of a tooth
  • Jaw pain or swelling
  • Non-healing sores in the mouth or around the jaw
  • Hip, thigh, or groin pain

Additionally, there is a risk of developing changes in kidney function while on Zometa, as the medication is excreted by the kidneys. Your doctor will monitor your kidney function using blood tests while on Zometa. Additionally, there is a risk of developing severe breathing problems while on Zometa when an individual has asthma or is aspirin-sensitive. Alert your provider immediately if you are having trouble breathing, especially if you have a history of asthma or aspirin sensitivity.

Before staring Zometa talk to your provider if you:

  • Have any problems with your kidneys
  • Have had any major dental conditions or have a major dental procedure scheduled
    Have asthma
  • Are aspirin-sensitive
  • Are taking any other bisphosphonate medications including Reclast
  • Are allergic to Zometa or any of its ingredients, or have any other allergies
  • Have any other medical conditions
  • Are currently taking any other medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements

You should also contact your provider if you notice any signs of an allergic reaction to the medication, including chest pain, fever, flu-like symptoms, or difficulty breathing. It is also important to consult the prescribing information for any other medications taken with Zometa, including chemotherapy medications.1

Dosing information

Zometa is administered via an intravenous (IV) infusion every 3-4 weeks. The infusion typically consists of 4 mg of zoledronic acid, and takes at least 15 minutes to administer. Your provider will determine the appropriate dosage and administration schedule for you. They will also determine the appropriate dosage and administration schedule of any other medications taken with Zometa, such as chemotherapies or calcium supplements. It is important to follow your provided schedule exactly as instructed, and not to stop taking any accompanying medications on your own. The dose of your Zometa can be adjusted as needed by your doctor.1

Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: October 2017
View References