Are bone loss drugs a good idea for those with osteopenia?


From this NYT article Splits Form Over How to Address Bone Loss:

“Millions of people worldwide, most of them women, have been told they have osteopenia and should take drugs to inhibit bone loss. But the drugs carry risks, so many public-health experts say the diagnosis often does more harm than good.” 

The World Health Organization has developed an online tool, called FRAX, meant to help doctors and patients determine when treatment for deteriorating bones is appropriate. Some say the tool is faulty and does not take into account normal aging. Another quote:

“It was a W.H.O. panel financed by the pharmaceutical industry that in 1994 defined normal bone mass as that of an average 30-year-old woman. Because bone naturally deteriorates with age, anyone much older than 30 is likely to qualify for a diagnosis of osteopenia; using similar logic, a middle-aged woman might be said to have a skin disorder because she had more wrinkles than her 30-year-old daughter.

And this:

Dr. Steven Cummings, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, said it was also important to understand when medication was likely to help. “The drugs work if you have osteoporosis,” Dr. Cummings said. “But some studies suggest there is little benefit, if any benefit at all, if you take these drugs when you have osteopenia.”

There is presently no cure for osteopenia. There are two treatments often mentioned – exercise and osteoporosis drugs. When comparing the side-effects of the two treatments exercise is clearly a much better choice.

The exercise protocol used by the personal trainers at Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Fitness Trainers was derived from a study working with osteoporosis patients. Researchers found that joints hurt less, bone density increased and muscles were stronger and more toned with minimal time exercising. It has been shown effective for men and women of all ages.

Previous blogs posted on the subject of bone loss:

The under appreciated role of muscle in health and disease
High-intensity strength training effective for osteoporotic fractures
High intensity strength training preserves bone density