Poor Pharma. Until 15 years ago, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was a right of passage for older U.S. women and Pharma raked in billions. While HRT did prevent osteoporosis, it was also found to increase the risk of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots, hearing loss, gall bladder disease, urinary incontinence, asthma, the need for joint replacement, melanoma, ovarian, endometrial and lung cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and even dementia according to medical findings. In the first year that millions of women quit HRT in 2003, U.S. breast cancer fell seven percent and 15 percent in women with estrogen fed tumors.
When women quit HRT, Pharma rolled out bisphosphonates like Fosamax and Boniva, (hawked by Sally Field), designed to keep bones strong and keep the profit party going. It invented the term “osteopenia” (the risk of osteoporosis), putting bone density measuring devices in doctor offices, to scare women into taking bone drugs.
But the bisphosphonates soon revealed risks of their own: jaw bone death (osteonecrosis) in which some women had to have their entire jaws removed, esophageal cancer and causing fractures the very fractures they were supposed to prevent. Thanks Pharma.
Undaunted, Pharma rolled out Prolia, or denosumab, an injected drug made from genetically engineered Chinese hamster ovary cells (“monoclonal antibodies”) that is an example of Pharma’s newest profit center. Think Humira. Monoclonal antibodies, sometimes call MoAbs, suppress the immune system and invite super infections, including Prolia, but they are big business for Big Pharma because they’re expensive and resistant to generic competition.
Prolia maker Amgen deployed 1,000 reps to sell the drug despite the fact that during clinical trials, subjects developed cervical, ovarian, pancreatic, gastric, thyroid and breast cancers. Ten people were hospitalized with the skin infection cellulitis during trials and one died. Three more needed hospitalization for pneumonia after only one dose. Not only was Prolia approved despite it trail of harm, it was approved early.
Now, Pharma is at it again with a new bone drug called Evenity that costs $21,000 a year. Another MoAb, Evenity (romosozumab) was rejected by the FDA in 2017 for its link to heart attack or stroke and approved only because a warning was added. After a year of Evenity treatment, patients must return to the dangerous other bone drugs it supposedly replaced.
Older women worried about thinning bones can do many things besides taking Pharma’s dangerous drugs that do more harm than good and cost thousands a year. Weight bearing exercises, Vitamin D and calcium are a good start. Women should resolutely avoid SSRI antidepressants and other Pharma franchised drugs which long term studies now show weaken bones. Like many meds, these drugs was rushed to market before anyone knew the consequences of long term use.
Finally, there is growing evidence the excess acid supply of a Western diet is an osteoporosis risk factor––that is why people in countries without traditional Western diets seldom have osteoporosis.
“Elderly women with a high dietary ratio of animal to vegetable protein intake have more rapid femoral neck bone loss and a greater risk of hip fracture than do those with than do those with a low ratio,” confirms an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Despite aggressive advertising, Pharma’s high-priced bone drugs are a poor substitute for a good diet and healthy living.
Martha Rosenberg is a freelance journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed “Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health,” published by Prometheus Books. Check her Facebook page.