Drugs that millions of older Americans take to ward of the effects of osteoporosis have been shown to actually increase the prevalence of the problem they are trying to prevent. Osteoporosis is a condition is which the bones become thin and brittle, occurring mostly as people age. There are risk factors for it such as obesity, sedentary life style and smoking that can be controlled or avoided.
Most people end up on a class of drugs called bisphosphonates. These are drugs that include the brand names Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax, Reclast. It is estimated that 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and an additional 34 million have low bone mass called osteopenia. The market for these drugs is huge and sales last year exceeded $3.5 billion.
New research is showing that after as little as 5 years of use it can actually cause a type of hip fracture that is not seen in women who do not take this class of drug. This problem with hip fractures is that they can be lethal or at the very least, very disabling.
Approximately 15-20% of patients die within 1 year of fracture. Many people point to this statistic and would say of course a large percentage of patients that fracture their hips die soon after – the largest portion of the population who sustain these injuries are elderly adults. But consider the next finding. Interestingly, morbidity and mortality in those older than 90 years sustaining a hip fracture were not found to be statistically higher than others in the same age group without such an injury.
The fact that these drugs can have severe side effects such as increasing the rate of hip fracture is disturbing because I have many patients who are on this class of drug and not all of them are elderly. Some of there are in the 55-65 range and have been told they ‘must’ start taking these drugs to improve their bone density. They are also told they will need to be on them for the rest of their life. This puts these patients in grave danger and I don’t believe the benefit outweighs the risk. The pharmaceutical companies have responded to these new studies in a typical way.
Merck spokesman Ron Rogers says the company has updated the Fosamax label to include information about “adverse events.”
A “causal association” has not been established between longterm bisphosphonate use and these atypical fractures, he says. “In our clinical studies with Fosamax, there have been no increased fracture risk at any skeletal site.”
Thanks for the warning label, but it may be too late for thousands of Americans. Of course their clinical trials found no issues, but they never do. Would you want to find out that your billion dollar money maker is dangerous and should be pulled from the market?
Terry Hurley, spokesman for Genentech, says Boniva’s “safety and efficacy” have been demonstrated in extensive clinical trials.
Again, the clinical trials mean nothing if these results are true. The problem with drug research is that you can’t possibly know the long term effects of a drug until it has been used for years and the American public is used as your guinea pig. Simply because it has been shown to be safe in some clinical trials does not mean it is safe forever.
Instead of offering more drugs to people for bone ‘health’ why not try something that works to slow bone loss that is not toxic and has very little side effect? A great solution that works well for all of my patients is a combination of 4 things:
- A calcium/magnesium supplement – at least 1,500mg of calcium to roughly 600-800mg of magnesium per day.
- A vitamin D supplement – at least 4,000-6,000 IUs per day.
- A vitamin K supplement – at least 2,000 – 4,000 mcg per day.
- Weight bearing exercise.
The combination of the above works wonders to slow bone loss and the side effects are non existent. There are so many drugs out there that are dangerous and can actually cause the problem they are designed to prevent. It doesn’t make sense that these drugs are used so prevalently when safer and more natural alternatives are available.