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Bone Maintenance Drug May Increase Instances of Rare Type of Hip Fractures
Brought to you from the NEEDS Wellness Team

In a recent letter to the editors at New England Journal of Medicine, three physicians reported case studies (informal, based on their patients' experiences) on postmenopausal women who used bisphosphonates (such as Fosamax) long term for osteoporosis. These doctors saw a correlation between long-term use of this type of medication (designed to prevent the breakdown of bone) and an increased rate of a rare type of hip fracture that occurs in the absence of serious trauma. Patients who took bisphosphonates long term also showed suppressed bone turnover in bone biopsy and fractures did not heal well.

These findings are not entirely surprising. It is well known that Fosamax works by preventing bone turnover, meaning old bone accumulates rather than being replaced with new strong bone. Turnover is appropriate in healthy bone as cells should continuously breakdown and rebuild. While, this improves bone density, it results in bones that are weak and brittle.

Most of the clinical trials on bisphosphonates lasted 1 to 3 years, so its long-term effects have not been thoroughly evaluated. Some of the side effects include upper gastrointestinal irritation and ulceration, as well as risk of jaw osteonecrosis (bone breakdown) and muscle or bone pain. The majority of the research does not demonstrate a significant reduction in non-vertebral and hip fractures; positive results were mainly with vertebral fractures.

When faced with progressive bone loss, it is best to initially try natural methods to improve bone density and build strong bones. Bone loss and growth occurs slowly, so be patient and allow the natural methods six months to a year to demonstrate effectiveness before resorting to using bisphosphonates. Building bone requires a lot more than calcium supplements. Weight-bearing exercise, proper dietary choices, as well as gastric acid, alkaline tissue pH, and vitamins D, K, and mineral supplementation are also important factors to incorporate in the bone building process.

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