July 16, 2012
Doctors fight osteoporosis with
drugs that cause broken bones
drugs that cause broken bones
If your doctor says you have osteoporosis, he should treat you with a program that helps you avoid broken bones. Unfortunately, most doctors in this country use pharmaceuticals that actually cause broken bones. That's what a new study says about bisphosphonates, a popular osteoporosis drug.
The new study comes out of Switzerland, where researchers followed 477 osteoporosis patients. Of these patients, 39 suffered atypical fractures of the femur (that's the thigh bone, which runs from your knee to your hip). In other words, over 8% of these patients had fractures you would not normally expect to happen under current conditions. The researchers found that 82.1% of these 39 patients were taking bisphosphonates. Compare that to the 438 patients who had common fractures. Only 6.4% of them were taking the osteoporosis drugs.
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The researchers in this study said that those patients who took bisphosphonates the longest had a threefold increase in their risk for atypical fractures than those who didn't take the drugs at all. Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the risk of atypical fracture more than doubles when you take the drugs for more than five years.
This latest study isn't going to be the final word on bisphosphonates. Drugs this popular - you probably know them as Fosamax, Actonel, and Boniva - aren't going away without a fight. As a result, there's a huge debate raging in the medical community about whether these drugs are good for your bones or not. Many argue the benefits are worth the risk. But when you look at possible risks, you may not agree. Studies show these drugs can cause necrosis of the jaw (where it eats away your jaw bone), severe pain in the bones and joints, atrial fibrillation, and cancer.
What I find interesting is the history of bisphosphonates. They've been around since the 19th century, but the medical community didn't use them until the 1960s. So what did people use them for prior to that? They used these as industrial chemicals to soften water. That's right! Bisphosphonates inhibit the formation of calcium carbonate and bind to minerals. Here's why this is important.
In the 1990s, doctors found that bisphosphonates inhibit bone resorption. This is the process by which bone breaks down and transfers minerals such as calcium into the blood stream. The binding ability of these drugs allows them to attach to mineral surfaces in bone, where they prevent the bones from losing minerals.
In the short-term, this is good. Most people don't have problems with bisphosphonates until they've taken the drugs for at least a year. The longer you take them, the worse the side effects become. Why?
Any water expert will tell you that the only way to soften water is to take the minerals out of it. We know that minerals are vital for the health of your bones and your heart. Is it possible that the reason bisphosphonates cause bone problems and atrial fibrillation has to do with their ability to remove minerals from the body? Or is it possible that the bisphosphonates that attach to the mineral surfaces in your body eventually begin to inhibit your bones and tissues from using the minerals bound by the drug? We don't know. But we do know that the longer you take these drugs, the more they threaten your health.
So if you have osteoporosis, make sure you avoid bisphosphonates.