I’ve had concerns about drugs like fosamax for years. Reports of facial bone atrophy and the tendency for bones to become more brittle with these drugs have made me question the wisedom of their use, especially since there are more natural approaches that I have seen work for many women in my practice. Now this concern is getting more attention as outlined in an email I got today from Dr. Williams. His short article is below with my comments in blue.

Dr. Williams:

Some popular osteoporosis drugs may actually increase your risk of breaking your leg, as recently reported on ABC’s Good Morning America.

The good news here is that the word about these drugs is finally getting out to a wider audience. The bad news is that it took so long to happen.

In 2008, the FDA alerted Merck, the manufacturer of the osteoporosis drug Fosamax, that there were reports of what’s called “subtrochanteric fracture of the femur.” In simple terms, this refers to a break in the thigh bone at a point somewhere below the hip. It took Merck more than a year to finally say, essentially, “We’re looking into it.”

I Hate to Say It, But “I Told You So”

I first wrote about the perils of these osteoporosis drugs in 2002. At that time, I warned readers of my Alternatives newsletter about studies showing that drugs like Fosamax, a group called bisphosphonates, increase bone strength over the first few years of use, but eventually the bone becomes brittle and more susceptible to fracture.

That appears to be exactly what’s happening here. Women who have taken Fosamax for longer than five years appear to be suffering the thigh fractures after doing such commonplace activities as walking down stairs.

Fortunately, women who took my advice back in 2002 stopped taking these drugs, and have saved themselves from years of worry-and possible fracture and disability. I didn’t leave these women in the lurch, however. Over the years in Alternatives I’ve provided many other safe, natural ways to keep your bones healthy and strong. Here’s a quick summary.

My 3-Point Plan to Keep Your Bones Healthy and Strong

Exercise. Your bones are living tissue, and they need a healthy degree of stress to stay healthy and vibrant. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking or dancing provides appropriate stress. As your bones respond to this stress, they renew themselves and become stronger.

Whenever you can, get your activity outdoors. For much of the year, exposure to the sun will form vitamin D, which is necessary for good bone health. If bad weather prevents you from getting outside, or you’re not able to be very physically active for some reason, an alternative for good bone health is vibration therapy. Simply standing on the vibrating platform of a device such as the Power Plate will provide your bones with a good dose of healthy stress. Diet. Bones are more than just a coatrack for your skin and muscle to hang on. They also act as a store of minerals to keep your body’s pH in balance. The modern American diet is loaded with foods that push your pH out of the healthy range, so for better bone health you must make the switch back. Cut down on bone-unfriendly foods such as white bread and rice, most grains, and most meat. Eat more bone-friendly foods such as fruits and vegetables, flax and chia, and even dairy foods.

Supplements.You need more than just calcium tablets to keep your bones in good shape. Your bones also contain large amounts of magnesium, and smaller amounts of minerals such as boron. In addition, your body needs vitamin D and vitamin K to get that calcium and magnesium moved into position. I recommend the following amounts daily for bone health:

* 500 mg of magnesium (from a combination of diet and supplements),

* 1,000 mcg of boron,

* 2,000 IU daily of vitamin D (in the form of vitamin D3), and (Dr Hogg: I recommend up to 5000 IU or more/day depending on your blood tests)

* 150 mcg of vitamin K (in the form of vitamin K2).

(Dr Hogg: We have a great supplement, Oscap Plus, that includes all of the above plus a nutrient called “Iproflavone” which specifically supports the cells that build new bone. We also have a good, plant based, hormone cream that helps with menopausal symptoms as well as bone density without the risks associated with common hormone replacement drugs like premarin.

In addition, be sure to ask me to check you for Hydrochlororic acid (HCl) production in your stomach which is essential for calcium absorption. Proton pump inhibitors like nexium and prilosec, used for heartburn or acid reflux, are designed to interfere with natural HCl production and studies have shown that they increase the risk of hip fracture with long-term use. Anti-acids like Tums and Rolaids neutralize HCl and create similar problems but not as severely as proton pump inhibitors. If your are using any of these drugs, check with me to see if I can eliminate the actual cause of the reflux and eliminate the need for these drugs.)

Dr. Williams:

What to Do If You’re Taking the Drugs Now

The FDA has issued a patient advisory. In it, they address the recent ABC report, and tell patients to “talk to your doctor.” That would be the same doctor who advised you to begin the drug in the first place, even though the dangers have been known since 2002.

I do recommend that you talk to your doctor. But the conversation shouldn’t begin with, “Can I stop taking the drug?” Instead, start with, “I want off. What should I do instead?” When your doctor shrugs, or insists that drugs are your best option, show him or her this e-mail. Then start on the 3-point plan I gave you earlier.

Whatever you do, get out of the bone-drug trap as quickly as you can.

Take care,

David Williams