Osteoporosis Drugs and Risks

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Normal Bone and Bone Affected by Osteoporosis

Recently, there has been news that osteoporosis drug manufacturers may be exaggerating osteoporosis drug benefits and downplaying risks. Drugs such as Actonel, Fosamax, Boniva, Zometa, and most recently Reclast, have been regularly prescribed by doctors to protect women against bone loss. In fact, osteoporosis drugs may be the most prescribed drugs in America, and while the drugs are apparently effective at delaying bone loss, they have side effects. Here are three of the most serious:

  • Atrial Fibrillation.  This abnormal hearth rhythm problem has been linked to Fosamax and Reclast. Although it’s usually not life-threatening, the two mentioned bisphosphonates seem to significantly increase the risk, and that’s serious because it can increase a person’s chance of stroke.
  • Musculoskeletal Pain.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported in January of 2008, that some patients were complaining of severe muscle, bone, or joints aches. Fortunately, in many cases, the mysterious aches resolve themselves once patients stop taking the drugs. 
  • Osteonecrosis of the JawThis condition, more commonly known as Dead Jaw Syndrome, is where the bone in the jaw dies. The syndrome primarily occurs in cancer patients taking intravenous rather than oral bisphosphonates, although those taking oral bisphosphonates have also developed the disease. Additionally, the longer a person takes the bisphosphonate medications, the greater the likelihood of experiencing the syndrome.

Interestingly, most experts concede osteoporosis drugs are overprescribed and acknowledge that the long-term effects of the drugs are unknown. Therefore, if you are taking an osteoporosis drug or if you have side effects, you may want to reevaluate your situation by talking to your doctor. Dr. Andrew Weil, who takes a natural and alternative approach to health, suggests if you have a mild form of osteopenia you might be better off avoiding bisphosphonates altogether. He suggests you focus on exercise and diet as a way to delay or control osteopenia. He suggests people in the advanced osteopenia stages or those people with osteoporosis should be the only candidates receiving the medications.

One of the best ways to avoid or delay osteoporosis is exercise. Repeatedly, there are articles on how weight bearing exercises—weight lifting, resistance training, jogging, and so forth—can prevent or slow down osteoporosis. Diet is also important. So, if you want more information about what you can do for osteoporosis prevention, read Ways to Avoid Osteoporosis: What To Do and What Not To Do, Osteopenia and Osteoporosis: Nutrients For Strong Bones, and Osteoporosis: Calcium Absorption Factors.

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