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Consumer Alert: Common Osteoporosis Drugs May Weaken Bones and Increase Fracture Risk


Breaking a hip can cause devastating health effects, and can some cases even lead to fatalities in people over 65. To prevent such calamities, many women take a common class of osteoporosis drugs called bisphosphonates. But a startling new study has shown that these osteoporosis medications may actually weaken bones instead of strengthening them.

The research at Imperial College London found bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax, Reclast and Boniva, produce an increased number of micro-cracks in the bones, thus lessening their mechanical strength. This is disturbing news for the millions of people around the world who take these popular drugs.

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As we age, our bones become fragile and brittle due to loss of bone tissue. But while some bone loss is normal, people with osteoporosis experience it at an accelerated rate, which leads to a higher risk of bone fractures.

Alarming Findings About Bisphosphonates

Bisphosphonates are the main treatment for osteoporosis. Yet, because of the number of fractures among elderly people who have taken them for a long time, doctors have become concerned that the drugs may be contributing to the problem. Therefore, Dr. Richie Abel and his research team sought to investigate the possibility.

“What we wanted to see was whether the bone from bisphosphonate patients was weaker or stronger than bone from untreated controls,” said Abel. “Rather startlingly, we found the bone from the bisphosphonate patients was weaker. That’s a conundrum because the bone should be stronger.”

In the study published in Scientific Reports, bone samples from 16 people with osteoporosis were analyzed. All of the participants had sustained a broken hip, and half of them were taking a bisphosphonate. High-resolution X-rays were used to examine the bone structure. The results showed that the bones of some of the participants taking the medications had more micro-cracks and less mechanical bone strength than those who didn’t take the drugs.

Coauthor Professor Justin Cobb noted that such alarming findings raise questions about the advisability of prescribing the medications on a long-term basis. The team warns of an urgent need to look further into the adverse effects of bisphosphonates on the skeleton.

How Bisphosphonates Damage Bones

Over time, the micro-cracks produced by bisphosphonates put the bones at greater risk of breakage. The bone tissue regeneration that occurs throughout life heals some of these cracks, but in people with osteoporosis, the weakening process exceeds the regeneration process.

Osteoporosis results when osteoclasts, the cells that weaken the bones, become overactive. Osteoclasts eat away at bone tissue, which produces holes or perforations in bones in people with the condition.

Doctors prescribe bisphosphonates because they slow the bone-eating activity of osteoclasts, an effect that was thought to reduce the bone weakening process. However, the drugs also slow the beneficial function of osteoclasts, which is the removal of damaged bone so new bone can grow in its place. In other words, bisphosphonates hinder the negative function of osteoclasts, but they also hinder the positive function. Consequently, in some people the harm perpetrated outweighs the good.

The new findings build on other troubling research that indicates the medications are highly problematic. In a 2011 study published in JAMA, bisphosphonates were shown to increase the risk of a rare variety of hipbone fracture. It’s becoming increasingly clear that osteoporosis drugs aren’t a good solution for the prevention of fractures.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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