Natural Anti-Aging | Health Blog

Date: 07/19/2008    Written by: Jon Barron

Osteoporosis Drugs Not a Good Answer

Disease Prevention

To treat osteoporosis, doctors usually recommend calcium supplements, hormones, and most likely a medication to halt bone loss. In fact, they order the bone-loss drugs with such frequency that the most commonly prescribed medication, Fosamax, netted whopping sales of $3 billion in 2007. And those revenues tell just part of the story. Fosamax belongs to a class of drugs called bisphosphanates, which brought in $6.2 billion in 2004, with over 10 million users and a projected annual growth rate of almost seven percent.

Unfortunately, all that money spent may be for naught. A new study just published in The Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, focuses on a group of patients who were taking Fosamax and suffered unusual fractures of the thigh bone, seemingly as a result of taking the drug. The 20 patients in the study had been on bisphosphonates for an average of 6.9 years, and all reported that their bones "just snapped" across the upper part of the thigh while they walked or stood. Earlier studies and plenty of anecdotal evidence cite a similar relationship between bisphosphonates and spontaneous fractures, often preceded by aching and bone pain. The fractures seem to occur only with long-term use of the drugs -- more than five years.

Merck, which manufacturers Fosamax, was quick to point out that the drug reduces hip fracture risk by 95 percent, implying that the bone-busting problem is relatively insignificant when viewed in context. (Although Dr. Joseph M. Lane, chief of the metabolic bone disease service at New York/Presbyterian Hospital, says that hip fractures only "go down 50% with use of these drugs," -- considerably lower than the 95% claimed by Merck.) Whatever the real story, those in the medical community voice the opinion that the fractures are rare enough and the benefits of taking bisphosphonates significant enough to warrant continued use of the drugs.

But bisphosphonates have come under fire for more than busted thigh bones. They also have been implicated in "jaw death," or osteonecrosis. This is an excruciatingly painful condition in which blood flow decreases to the jaw, causing loose teeth, dramatic gum loss, severe infection, death of bone cells, and eventual collapse of bones and joints. There's no known cure. The osteonecrosis problem has led to hundreds of lawsuits against Merck, with an anticipated 1,500 to 2,000 lawsuits pending by the end of 2008.

Snapping thigh bones? Rotting jaws? What's going on here? Why are the drugs that the medical community stands behind as the best way to increase bone density exacerbating the very problem they're supposed to cure?

Well, bisphosphonates work by keeping the body from reabsorbing bone (part of the natural bone regeneration process) -- so yes, they do slow down bone loss. But they do nothing to help the body rebuild new bone. In a healthy body, old bone tissue continually gets sloughed off and replaced with new, healthy tissue. Because bisphosphonates kill the cells (osteoclasts) that remove old bone, the body is forced to retain the older, damaged bone tissue. The end result is that: "Yes, your bones are technically denser, but they are also scarred, brittle, and weakened."

As an article in The New York Times reports, "...some experts are concerned that microscopic bone cracks that result from normal wear and tear are not repaired when the bone remodeling process is suppressed. A 2001 study of beagles taking high doses of bisphosphonates found an accumulation of microscopic damage." And of course, this means that bone damage from taking the drugs extends throughout the body -- not just to the thigh and jaw.

Here's yet another case where the medical establishment's proclivity to suppress symptoms rather than deal with the actual cause of the problem seems to have backfired -- no surprise.



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    Submitted by Dexter Strawther on
    September 25, 2008 - 3:42am

    Thank you for all your information.
    May I direct your attention to the late John Lee, M.D.'s clinical study ""Osteoporosis Reversal The Role Of Progesterone"", published in the ""International Clinical Nutrition Review"", July 1990, Vol 10, No. 3.
    Progesterone turns on the osteoblast cells (which make new bone). In his clinical study, his women patients gained an average of 15% Bone Mineral Density BMD in 3 years, as measured by yearly dual photon absorptiometry scans. Those with the lowest BMD to start gained as much as 24%. Those with less loss of BMD gained only what was needed to bring them to BMD of a 35 year old woman.
    Dr Lee's program included proper diet and nutrition, but the major results were due to the use of Bio-Identical Progesterone, not a synthetic progestin such as Provera.
    It is true that testosterone also turns on the osteoblast cells. Men are more usually deficient in this hormone, whereas women are more usually deficient in progesterone.
    Dr Lee advocates the measurement of the Free Testosterone or Free Progesterone using saliva testing, rather than blood testing. This is because blood is water based, so the vast majority of cholesterol fat-based progesterone or testosterone is bound to a protein (SHBG) to make it water soluble, for excretion. Thus this form is no longer free biologically active hormone. Fortunately, the biologically active free progesterone or free testosterone exists in the saliva, on the fatty membrane of red blood cells, and there are labs devoted to such measurements.
    Upon retirement, Dr Lee wrote books for the public, ""What Your Doctor may NOT Tell You about Menopause"", followed by ""What Your Doctor May NOT Tell you about PRE-Menopause"" with Jesse Hanley, MD, and finally ""What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You about Breast Cancer"", with David Zava, Ph.D. Bio-Chemistry.
    His works, books, Video Cassettes, CDs, are available at his website, , or his books at book stores.

    Submitted by Dr. Faye Hall on
    August 3, 2008 - 3:05pm

    Hi. (I am not a physician, my degree is in education.) I just had a Dexascan, to determine whether or not I have bone loss. I will receive the results in a couple of weeks, so this is timely information for me. I do take Vitamin D supplements. It was an interesting collaboration between an allopathic physician and an "alternative" practitioner. The alternative practitioner suggested a Vitamin D test for me and the allopathic physician ordered it through the lab. When it was done they shared the results. They both said that I was Vitamin D deficient, and the alternative practitioner told me what dosage would correct the problem. I am hoping that we will see more and more of this type of collaboration. Thank you.

    Submitted by fels on
    August 3, 2008 - 6:31am

    If fosamax doesn't do what it's supposed to, what medications and supplements will help with osteoporosis?

    Submitted by frieda birnbaum on
    August 4, 2008 - 10:11pm

    I am still confused if fosomax helps prevent bone loss is it not better to take it then not, even if it lessens the turnovr for new bone growth. You are still getting something youdid not get beffore and that is less bone loss.

    Submitted by Jacalyn Pillion on
    July 21, 2008 - 2:18am

    Thank you for a wonderful article. My aunt was prescribed Fosamax from one of her doctors. She is 60 y.o. Apparently, when speaking with her gynocologist and informing him of this recommendation, he promplty told her to throw the Fosamax in the garbage can. Bravo!

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    August 5, 2008 - 5:41am

    Feel free to use the analogy. It's a hard concept for many people to understand. We've grown up being taught that more is better. Thus more bone is better than less bone. More bone protects you from osteoporosis. Less bone means you have osteoporosis. Unfortunately, these statements/concepts are flat out not true when it comes to bone. Its not a question of quantity, it's one of quality. You're far better off having less bone of higher quality than more bone of lower qualtity. And as it happens, Fosamax does the latter. Because it short circuits the normal bone building process, it creates more bone of lower quality -- of such poor quality, in fact, that thigh bones literally snap in half from just standing up.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    August 5, 2008 - 4:03am

    Think of it like dry rot on a floor. You can keep putting all the new wood you want on top of the dry rot, but if you don't actually remove the dry rot and replace it, the floor will eventually collapse -- no matter how much new wood you put on top of it. Fosamax works by preventing your body from cleaning out the ""dry rotted"" bone and replacing it with new strong bone. This makes for ever weakening bone tissue. In a sense, Fosamax is even worse than just covering a dry rotted floor with new wood, because Fosamx actually is actually responsible for creating the dry rot in the first place -- then covering it up. Bottom line: it doesn't matter how much new bone Fosamax adds if all of the bone that it's adding is dry rotted.
    Although I've been saying this is the case of several years now, the new studies have finally ""proven"" this to be true. However, if you still want to use the Fosamax, you will certainly be able to find doctors who haven't read the studies and will be only too happy to prescribe it for you.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    August 3, 2008 - 9:43am

    Here's a link to a complete newsletter on osteoporosis and what to do about it.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    July 22, 2008 - 3:37am

    I'm not saying don't use calcium. I'm just saying that the evidence doesn't support the claim that osteoporosis is the result of too little calcium in the diet. If you really want to address osteoporosis, you have to address those things first /anti-aging/natural-health-newsletter-osteoporosis-bone And Foasmax not only doesn't address those issues; it makes them worse. For more information on calcium and AdvaCal click here /natural-health/newsletter-bone-calcium-dietary-supplements

    Submitted by Michelle on
    August 5, 2008 - 5:22am

    Great article, and excellent example for Frieda. Would you mind if I used that? A lot of people don't understand the way the body removes the old and adds the new bone.
    I have been following this debate and warning every woman I know off of the Fosamax-type drugs.

    Submitted by stella elrom on
    July 21, 2008 - 9:39pm

    I have stopped taking fosomax a long time ago. However, I am actually taking another medication manufactured by Lane Labs called Adva cal to increase bone density. As per your article, it appears there is no need for these types of calcium pills. Should I stop taking these medications?

    Submitted by Tony Isaacs on
    July 20, 2008 - 3:02pm

    Hey Jon -
    You are so right on here! My 80 plus year old aunt was on Fosamax and was having severe pains in her back, making it difficult to stand upright and walk - until I convinced her to get rid of the evil stuff and address her desire for bone density naturally. Within a couple of months the pain was gone and she is as healthy as can be. She was lucky that the damage was not too much to overcome. Too bad so many others will have to suffer before they finally pull this one off the market.
    P. S. I enjoyed the articles about you on Natural News (where I am a featured writer, btw) and also your latest newsletter article on Medical Failures (and I am taking the liberty of posting it on CureZone, as I often do with your articles).

    Submitted by yellahfellah on
    July 23, 2008 - 8:40am

    It's me again, and I followed the link in the previous post (your reply to estella elrom) and read your ""old"" article on Osteoporosis (12/16/2006) and found that it answered my questions.
    Sorry for jumping my gun before reading what is available here... It seems I have to read a lot of your newsletters before I can catch up!

    Submitted by yellahfellah on
    July 23, 2008 - 5:44am

    Hi Jon! I'm new here and after reading this article, I'd like to ask if there have been any significant efforts by the medical industry into researching more on how to facilitate the regeneration of our bones (am I saying this right?). From what I've read at wikipedia, this is called bone turnover or remodeling (osteoblasts & osteoclasts, coupled together via paracrine cell signalling). Since this is a natural process (which no doubt has its purpose), it is not well for us to impede, interfere or "slow it down" as your article points out. And, is there something we can do (or take...) in order to ensure that whatever it is the body needs for this regeneration process is available and on hand?

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