I ended the last RANT explaining how the criteria was set to diagnose Osteoporosis, and how the non-medical term Osteopenia came into being. It was NEVER intended as a medical diagnosis!
The term “osteopenia” was never originally meant to be considered as a disease — it was a research category used mostly because some thought it might be useful for public health researchers who like clear categories for their studies.
But in 1995, a man named Jeremy Allen was approached by the drug company Merck. The pharmaceutical giant had just released a new osteoporosis drug called Fosamax. Since osteoporosis is a serious problem that affects millions of women, the potential market for Fosamax was enormous. But the drug wasn’t selling well.
Allen persuaded Merck to establish a nonprofit called the Bone Measurement Institute. On its board were six of the most respected osteoporosis researchers in the country.
But the institute itself had a rather slim staff: Allen was the only employee.
In 1997 the institute and several other interested organizations successfully lobbied to pass the Bone Mass Measurement Act, a piece of legislation that changed Medicare reimbursement rules to cover bone scans. More and more women got bone density tests (at Merck’s urging), and the very existence of the word “osteopenia” on a medical report had a profound effect.
Millions of women were worried by the diagnosis. And when clinicians saw the word ‘osteopenia’ on a report, they assumed it was a disease. Merck did not disabuse them of the notion.
There are no long-term studies that look at what happens to women with osteopenia who start Fosamax in their 50’s and continue treatment long-term in the hopes of preventing old-age fractures. And none are planned. (link)
In the previous rant we looked briefly at how bones are formed and what we call the bone matrix – the dying off and rebuilding of cells within the matrix which keep bones healthy and strong. When a person has Osteoporosis (porous bones) it means that there is something seriously wrong with this process. The pharmaceutical companies, recognizing there was an issue with (mostly) aging bones went to work and came up with another one of their so-called miracle drugs to fix the problem. The class of drugs known as bisphosphonates was born. The most widely known of these drugs (to me) is probably FOSAMAX. This class of drugs is also prescribed to people diagnosed with the NON-disease Osteopenia.
Dr. Mercola has a good page about this entire fiasco. Some of the quotes I have used in these articles/rants are his.
The manufacturers of osteoporosis drugs exaggerate the benefits and downplay the risks of so-called bone-strengthening drugs, according to a report in the January 2008 issue of British Medical Journal (BMJ)[i].
The paper states that the strongest single risk factor for fracture is falling, not osteoporosis.
Authors emphasize that “drug treatment is not a panacea,” and that women with osteopenia have such a low risk of fractures that drug treatment provides no benefit at all—but comes with all of the risks.
The paper states:
“What the drug makers do is argue that the effect of treating pre-osteoporosis (osteopenia) and osteoporosis is similar. This move to treat pre-osteoporosis raises serious questions about the benefit-risk relationship for low-risk individuals and about the costs of medicalizing and potentially medicating an enormous group of healthy people.”
The paper also states that all four studies cited by drug companies to substantiate the benefits of giving osteoporosis drugs to women with osteopenia were exaggerated[ii]. For example, one study claimed a 75 percent reduction in the risk of fracture, but the real risk reduction was only 0.9 percent.
These same studies also downplayed the potentially harmful side effects of these drugs. In one, they simply “forgot to mention” that raloxifene (Evista by Eli Lily) increased your risk for blood clots.
The BMJ article also mentions that many of the authors of the four studies were employees of the pharmaceutical industry, not surprisingly.
As I mentioned earlier FOSAMAX is the drug I am familiar with that is prescribed for the treatment of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia. Dr. Mercola has this to say about FOSAMAX:
What You Risk With Fosamax
Merck tried to hide the fact that Fosamax is causing jawbone death, a disease now known to oral surgeons as Bisphosphate-Related Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (BRONJ) or “Fossy Jaw,” a nasty side effect of Fosamax and related drugs that is difficult to treat.
Essentially, the condition causes your jawbone to rot and decay—quite ironic considering the drugs are primarily taken by people looking to strengthen their bones.
In addition to BRONJ, bisphosphate drugs have also been associated with:
Hypocalcemia (blood calcium levels are too low)
With a resume like this, it’s not surprising that Merck may have intentionally tried to keep the side effects of Fosamax under wraps—what drug representative would want to share this information with potential clients?
How does this class of drugs damage the bone matrix?
Bisphosphonate drugs like Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva, are problematic because they stay in the bone indefinitely and disrupt the normal bone regeneration process.
Healthy bones maintain their strength from a continual process of bone breakdown and bone rebuilding. Osteoclasts are the cells that break down your bone, and osteoblasts are the cells that rebuild it.
Fosamax and similar drugs poison your Osteoclasts, permanently killing them—the normal bone repair process is halted. So, your bones will indeed get denser. However, denser bones are NOT stronger bones, which is the part they don’t tell you. In fact, eventually your bones become weaker and more prone to fracture. Why?
Because bone is a dynamic structure that requires the removal of unhealthy bone and REPLACEMENT with new bone to stay strong. Fosamax does NOT build any new bone. It only kills the cells that break bone down, so your bone is not benefitting from its natural regenerative process.
How can we feed the bone matrix? what does it really need?
All cells in the human body have specific needs and bone cells are no different. There is a strong myth out there that all you need to do is take supplemental calcium and that will fix everything. This is WRONG
Part Three of this RANT will go through the natural healthy things you can take into your body which will assist the bone matrix to perform as it should.
Read and learn: How a bone disease grew to fit a drug description