Four and a half million women in the U.S. suffer from osteoporosis. Most doctors recommend drugs as a first response.
But the drugs that are supposed to help strengthen their brittle bones actually increase fracture risk. In other words… the drugs that are supposed to help these women are doing the exact opposite.
These findings come from a brand new study. It’s just been released. It’s the largest of its kind. It clearly shows that women who rely on this drug have double the risk of fracture. Several other studies show that these drugs are the direct cause of those fractures.
So how is it possible that an FDA-approved drug – one that generated over $3.5 billion in 2008 alone – is causing the same damage that it’s prescribed to fix? And just what other dangers does it pose?
Join us as we uncover the truth about osteoporosis drugs. And tell you how to strengthen your bones… the safe way.
Osteoporosis drugs are called bisphosphonates. They’re supposed to make bones stronger and more flexible. You may know them better by their street names:
But emerging research shows that they actually double a woman’s risk of fracture. In fact… more than double it. A new study shows they increase your risk by 2.5 times!
These findings come from Dr. Laura Park Wyllie. They were published in the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Dr. Wyllie conducts research for the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto. She’s no stranger to the subject of osteoporosis. She’s spent the last five years conducting osteoporosis drug safety studies. And she’s even been awarded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for her studies on osteoporosis treatment.
Now she’s made it her mission to look at the safety and effectiveness of these drugs. And her latest findings show that women who use them are at increased risk for thigh fracture.
Beginning the Study
Dr. Wylie says she started to investigate the safety of the drugs because reports showed that thigh fractures were becoming more and more common… despite more and more osteoporosis drugs to prevent them.
She explains that pharmacies filled more than 5 million prescriptions for the drug last year. Yet more women than ever were experiencing thigh fractures.
She began to wonder if the drugs just weren’t working.
She began studying them and discovered that the drugs themselves are causing the fractures.
Those findings come from a seven-year review study. It’s the largest one ever done on the subject.
Dr. Wylie’s team looked at the medical records of 205,466 women. All of them were 60 or older. The researchers began the study in 2002. They followed the progress of each woman over seven years. Half the group took osteoporosis drugs. The other half didn’t.
The researchers found clear evidence that the women taking osteoporosis drugs initially enjoyed improvements in flexibility and mobility. But over five years they began suffering an unusual and dangerous type of fracture… the fracturing of the thigh bone. Women who didn’t take the drugs simply didn’t suffer the fracture.
“Prolonged use of bisphosphonates is associated with unusual fractures of the femur,” noted Dr. Wyllie. “These findings highlight the risk of fracture when [using] extended bisphosphonate therapy. Long-term use of these drugs warrants reconsideration.”
Adding Further Evidence
Dr. Wylie’s findings are just the most recent. Two further studies were completed last year by independent research teams. They support Dr. Wylie’s findings. But they also reveal something even more disturbing…
The results were shared at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS).
The first study was headed up by Melvin Rosenwasser, M.D.
Dr. Rosenwasser is an orthopedic surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center. He also conducts research for the university.
He studied 111 women with primary osteoporosis for over four years.
He treated 61 with bisphosphonates. The other 50 took calcium and vitamin D supplements.
He noted that the drugs improved structural integrity early in the treatment. But those improvements faded over prolonged usage. In fact, the benefits began to reverse…
“In early treatment, patients experienced improvements in all parameters,” says Dr. Rosenwasser. “However, these trends later reversed. They revealed an association between prolonged therapy and declining bone integrity.”
In other words… bones started to break down over time. The group taking vitamin supplements took longer to show improvement. But over time they made steady, healthy gains in flexibility and bone strength. Those improvements continued during the length of the study.
The group taking drugs suffered increasing rates of thigh fractures and injury. The vitamin group did not suffer a single incident of fracture.
Bisphosphonates Break Down Bones
A second unrelated study was conducted by the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. This team looked at the bone makeup of 21 postmenopausal women who were treated for fractures.
Twelve of the women had been taking osteoporosis drugs for at least three years. The other nine had never taken osteoporosis drugs.
The research team took samples from each patient’s femur. And analyzed the bones themselves. They used cutting-edge equipment to look at the actual structure of the bone and its properties.
And they discovered big differences between the two groups. They found that the bone tissue was breaking down in the drug group. It was as if the thigh bones were literally crumbling.
When they looked back at the records they found something else significant. All the women in the non-drug group had suffered fracture through injury and accident. But the women in the drug group had suffered the fractures through simple daily living.
Debra Pate is a member of the American Chiropractic Board of Radiology. She attended the conference and reviewed the studies. And she’s shocked by the findings.
“These fractures were not from falls,” says Pate. “In fact most individuals were performing low-energy exercise like walking.”
Pate believes these drugs are doing more harm than good.
“Bisphosphonates should not be used long term,” says Pate. “And it is highly questionable whether patients should be prescribed the drug at all.”
Problems from the Start
A careful review of the history of these types of drugs reveals they’ve been doing plenty of harm since they were first released.
Fosamax was the first osteoporosis drug to hit the market in 1995. Straight away, it was linked to problems.
Dentists began to see an increase in jaw osteonecrosis. That’s a rare illness that causes severe jaw pain. It also makes your teeth drop out. In severe cases, your jaw completely collapses.
Several researchers began investigating this phenomenon. One group conducted research at the Jewish Medical Center in New York. Their findings were later published in The Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Those results were conclusive.
The researchers looked at the records of 63 random patients who had developed the jaw disorder. They found that all 63 of them had taken bisphosphonates for at least one year. In every case, there was no problem before they started taking the drugs.
Then there was a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A research team from Harvard investigated the increase in the jaw disease. They reached the exact same conclusions.
Seeking Better, Safer Options
Plenty of evidence shows that long term use of these drugs is dangerous. Furthermore, their benefits diminish over time.
So what can you do?
Dr. Wyllie says long-term users should consider taking a “drug holiday.” Pate agrees.
“Medication is not the best way to prevent osteoporosis,” says Pate. “Nutrition and exercise are key for bone health.”
There are no easy remedies to make bones stronger. But both Wyllie and Pate agree that lifestyle changes can help.
Several studies show that yoga and tai chi exercises can improve balance. Those studies show that people who do these exercises experience fewer falls and less fractures.
Diet is also important in strengthening your bones. While you may have heard that calcium is important to your bones… you may not know that vitamin D is equally important.
That’s because it helps you to safely absorb calcium… allowing you to take calcium supplements without adverse effects.
There are plenty of good sources of calcium. You can opt for dairy products. But foods such as shrimp, raw broccoli, and almonds also are powerful sources of the mineral.
Plus, you can always take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Doctors recommend you take 1200-1500 mg of calcium daily. And 400-800 IU of vitamin D.
And there are many other ways to combat osteoporosis. We’re just putting together the finishing touches on a brand new report which looks at all the latest osteoporosis research. And brings you the best cures from the brightest doctors. We’ll let you know the instant it’s available, so keep an eye on your inbox.
To your best health,
Managing Editor, NHD “Health Watch”