I’m sure you’ve seen one or more television ads for biphosphonate drugs such as Fosamax (alendronate) or Boniva (ibandronate) that picture healthy, vibrant midlife women selling you on the idea that you need a drug to ensure healthy bones for a lifetime. Would that life were that easy! Before taking or continuing to take one of these drugs, you need to know the full story. Then you can make a truly informed decision.
The first thing I want every woman to know is that your bones are designed to last a lifetime without drugs. Bone is, after all, a living, dynamic organ that constantly remodels itself through a process of resorption of old bone and laying down of new bone. And it’s completely normal to lose some bone around midlife. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to get fractures. It’s your bone quality, not just bone density, that’s the issue here—and taking biphosphonate drugs puts your bone quality at risk.
The Untold Truth About Osteoporosis Drugs
The biphosphonates work by preventing bone resorption and loss. Inhibiting bone resorption secondarily inhibits the formation of new bone—and old bone is denser than new bone. It’s also more brittle than normal bone. So dense and hard, in fact, that it may be more difficult for this denser bone to maintain an adequate blood supply to ensure bone healing. Research on animals indicates that biphosphonates inhibit the normal repair of tiny fractures and porous bone (microdamage)—which eventually results in accumulation of microdamage and loss of bone strength. This explains why alendronate has been associated with delayed or absent fracture healing and also spontaneous, atraumatic, non-spinal fractures.
Worse yet, the biphosphonates are also associated with a very troublesome side effect known as osteonecrosis of the jaw—a side effect in which the jaw bone literally rots. Not only is this disfiguring, it’s very difficult to adequately treat. The biphosphonates have also been associated with the need for root canals and other dental problems. In fact, 60 percent of the cases of osteonecrosis of the jaw occur following dental surgery—probably secondary to the inability of this altered bone to heal itself.