A recent story in The New York Times about the failure of osteoporosis drugs caught my attention. The headline read, “Most Osteoporosis Drugs Don’t Build Bone.” Of course, we already knew that. But the open criticism came as a surprise to me since it’s typically natural approaches that are under fire in the mainstream news.
But, this piece was written by Gina Bari Kolata.
Gina is one of the best science reporters I’ve ever come across. And I’ve worked with her several times over the past 30 years.
She works diligently to uncover all sides of a story, unlike other Times reporters, who routinely miss the mark. And she’s been a Pulitzer Prize finalist twice. One of her books even documents my idea to study autopsy samples of WWI soldiers who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic (Spanish flu). The samples had been archived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where I was in charge of the historical collection as Associate Medical Director from 1986 to 1995.
So, I always trust Gina to get to the bottom of a story. And she did a great job on the new osteoporosis treatment that just gained Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval…
Right away, Gina’s headline hit the target—admitting to the mainstream’s failure to prevent and treat one of the most common problems of older people…and especially women.
Of course, I told you years ago about the fundamental problem with osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax®, Boniva®, and Actonel®. They artificially increase bone density by killing normal bone cells called osteoclasts, which remove old, worn-out bone. And they don’t harm osteoblasts—the other kind of bone cells—which build the new bone.
In the end, these drugs simply build new bone on top of a rotten, old foundation. (Of course many pharmaceutical drugs take a similar, destructive approach. Just consider cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which poison normal cells and cellular metabolic functions.)
Plus, bisphosphonates don’t significantly reduce the risk of bone fractures. Indeed, they actually increase your risk of suffering “atypical fractures,” which happen when the bones break spontaneously, even without a fall or major force.
But of course, big pharma is always coming out with new bad drugs to replace their old bad drugs…
New drug, same old problem
Gina’s story focuses on the FDA’s approval of the first new osteoporosis drug in 20 years. The research was based on studies of a rare, gene mutation in a group of Afrikaners (Dutch in South Africa) who were tall and heavy, but not fat, due to their large and dense bone structure.
The overly dense bones are caused by a gene mutation that blocks a protein called sclerostin, which normally halts the production of new bone and increases its breakdown.
So, in people with this mutation, their bodies simply keep building bone. In fact, their bones can grow so profusely, their heads can become distorted. And in some cases, their index and middle fingers fuse together.
Fifty-five years after this initial research, Amgen (a biopharmaceutical company) developed a drug called Evenity® that mimics the mutation and blocks sclerostin. (Sound familiar? It works just like the old osteoporosis drugs and statins—by blocking a normal, biological function.)
So, as you might expect, the drug seems to cause some troubling side effects…
Increases in heart attack, stroke, and sudden death
In the clinical trials on Evenity®, the drug increased bone density by 15 percent.
But this is what they don’t tell you: All it takes is a 6 percent increase in density to double the strength of bones. Meaning this drug more than doubles bone density. But is that a good thing?
Not to mention, there were 24 percent more heart attacks, strokes, and sudden deaths among people who took Evenity® compared to the group of people who took an older osteoporosis drug called alendronate.
Plus, treatment with Evenity® requires monthly injections—causing irritation, joint pains, and headaches.
So, with side effects like these, Gina wrote, “It may not be easy to convince patients to take the new drug.” (Well, time will tell. But I’d certainly hope so, Gina!)
Of course, the FDA is requiring post-marketing surveillance for these risks. But what do you think they’ll find after unleashing this drug—one that’s known to cause heart attack, stroke, and sudden death—on millions of users instead of the 4,000 in the clinical trial? Rather, how about never approving Evenity® in the first place?!
As I explained earlier this month, newer isn’t always better when it comes to drugs. And if you must take a drug, only pick one that’s been on the market for at least seven years.
Amgen talks a good talk
About 20 years ago, I was keynote speaker at a continuing medical education conference on natural treatments (complementary/alternative medicine) for cancer, which was sponsored by Amgen.
I asked the Amgen representative why they were supporting educating doctors about natural approaches to cancer?
And this is the response I received: Amgen thinks their drugs, “take natural approaches” that work with the body’s own normal physiology to help it perform normal functions.
Well, how about just going straight to the known natural treatments that work then? And skip the harmful drugs that purport to “take natural approaches” altogether?
Fortunately, there are many natural approaches that prevent and reverse osteoporosis. In fact, the real answers for this common chronic disease include supplementing daily with:
- 10,000 IU of vitamin D
- 250 mg of vitamin C, twice daily
- 150 mg of magnesium (as magnesium citrate)
And don’t let the recent “fake news” on vitamin D scare you. As I explained last week, the studies had several major design flaws—nullifying their conclusions. In fact, the news reports buried the health benefits beneath some inflated, far-fetched concerns.
I don’t blame the journalists, really. They aren’t experts, despite their pretentions on cable news. And they can only report what “sources” tell them.
And sometimes, they even try to present both sides of the story. But as President Truman once said, he wished he could find some “one-armed experts,” because he was tired of hearing: “On the one hand this, but on the other hand, something else.”
In the end, there’s no such thing as “settled science”—as it pertains to osteoporosis or any other chronic condition. That oxymoron is only used by those who don’t understand the science…or those who don’t keep up with the emerging science.
You can stay up-to-date with all the cutting-edge science on osteoporosis (among all other important health issues) right here in my Daily Dispatch and my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started. Click here to sign up today!
And now, this one-armed expert is signing off…
“Most osteoporosis drugs don’t build bone. This one does.” The New York Times, 4/9/19. (nytimes.com/2019/04/09/health/osteoporosis-evenity-bone-amgen.html)