Are Osteoporosis Drugs Safe?
by Dr. Howard F. Loomis, D.C.
Millions of Americans are at risk for osteoporosis—even more will probably suffer from bone loss. Many of your patients are taking prescription drugs in the belief they will prevent bone loss. How many have you identified in your practice? This is an important part of every patient record because the drugs they are taking may be doing more harm than good.
The most common recipients of these types of drugs are women in their late forties and older who have reached menopause and have begun to experience loss of bone density due to the aging process. They are used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis and steroid-induced osteoporosis. They may occasionally be prescribed for other purposes, such as Paget’s disease, and I would recommend you become aware of which of your patients are taking these drugs and for what purpose.
The stated purpose of bisphosphonates (bis-FOS-fo-nayts) is to slow bone loss while increasing bone mass, which may prevent bone fractures. Bone metabolism includes osteoblasts that are continually forming new bone and osteoclasts that are continually removing older bone. The osteoporosis drugs only block osteoclastic activity. For chiropractors, there are three problems with this approach:
• Old bone accumulates and may lead to a condition known as osteonecrosis.
• Nothing is done to encourage new bone formation.
• Your patients may have an increased risk of injury during manipulative therapy.
Other serious complications of this condition may include jaw pain, swelling, numbness, loose teeth, gum infection, or slow healing after injury or surgery involving the gums. Milder side effects include pain, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, hypertension, and dozens of other conditions—too many to list here.
Recommended Directions for Taking Drugs for Osteoporosis
The directions for taking Fosamax, Boniva, Reclast, and Actonel vary slightly, but they are quite similar to the following:
• Do not take this drug if you cannot sit upright or stand for at least thirty minutes. It can cause serious problems in the stomach or esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth and stomach). You will need to stay upright for at least thirty minutes after taking this medication.
• It is recommended you take this drug first thing in the morning, at least thirty minutes before you eat or drink anything or take any other medicine. Take each dose with a full glass (six to eight ounces) of water. Use only plain water (not mineral water) when taking a bisphosphonate.
• For at least the first thirty minutes after taking a tablet, do not lie down or recline; do not eat or drink anything other than plain water; and do not take any other medicines including vitamins, calcium, or antacids.
Before using a bisphosphonate drug, tell your doctor if you have:
• Low blood calcium (hypocalcemia)
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Kidney disease
• Ulceration of the stomach or esophagus
If you have any of these conditions, you may need a dose adjustment or special tests before using any of the bisphosphonates.
Directions accompanying the bisphosphonates advise that they are only part of a complete treatment program that may also include diet changes, exercise, and taking calcium and vitamin supplements. Follow medication, and exercise routines very closely.
Patients are advised of the following precautions:
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. It is not known whether bisphosphonates pass into breast milk or if they can harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breastfeeding a baby.
The drug use instructions advise of the following side effects:
• Some people using bisphosphonates have developed bone loss in the jaw (osteonecrosis). Symptoms of this condition may include jaw pain, swelling, numbness, loose teeth, gum infection, or slow healing after injury or surgery involving the gums.
• You may be more likely to develop osteonecrosis of the jaw if you have cancer or have been treated with radiation, or steroids. Other conditions associated with osteonecrosis of the jaw include blood clotting disorders, anemia (low red blood cells), and a pre-existing dental problem.
Advice for Chiropractors
In previous articles, I have suggested that you cannot restore normal function, nor maintain health using drugs, regardless of whether they are prescription or recreational. They are best used in the treatment of disease. And I believe that, because of their potential side effects, they should not be recommended for preventing osteoporosis. Remember, commonly prescribed drugs work by either blocking receptor sites or interfering with a human enzyme system.
A nutritional approach for preventing osteoporosis would be to improve the patients’ dietary intake and digestion of protein. Of course, attention must be paid to balancing calcium and phosphorus as well. Such an approach would be directed at improving osteoblastic activity by nutritional means, as opposed to blocking osteoclastic activity with its attendant side effects.
Howard F. Loomis, Jr., DC, President of Enzyme Formulations®, Inc., has an extensive background in enzymes and enzyme supplementation. As president for fifteen years of 21st Century Nutrition® (now the Loomis Institute® of Enzyme Nutrition), he has forged a remarkable career as an educator, having conducted over 400 seminars to date, in the United States and internationally, on the diagnosis and treatment of food enzyme deficiency syndromes.
Dr. Loomis welcomes your comments or questions through the Loomis InstituteTM at 6421 Enterprise Lane, Madison, WI 53719 or by phone at 1-800-662-2630.