Last year I told you about a risky new osteoporosis drug called Prolia.
The company that makes Prolia, Amgen pharmaceuticals, says the drug is much safer than older bone drugs on the market, such as Boniva, with Prolia side effects being less dangerous than the side effects of Boniva. These older drugs work by interrupting the cycle of bone turnover.
Sure -- they stop you from losing bone, so your bone density tests initially look great. But the drugs also stop you from growing new bone. So over time, your bones could become brittle and you become more prone to fractures.
In fact, women who take high doses of these older bone drugs (called bisphosphonates) could run an increased risk of developing atypical hip fractures. They could also run an increased risk of getting osteonecrosis (or bone death of the jaw) and it has even been linked to esophageal cancer.
Amgen deliberately tried to stand apart from bisphosphonates in its marketing materials. Instead of hiring a celebrity like Sally Field, Amgen talked about "women like you" in its marketing.
The company says Prolia is different. But women aren't buying it...literally.
Sales out of the gate for Prolia, which debuted in 2010, were sluggish.
But Amgen just hit pay dirt. They figured out a new way to increase their market share: sell it to cancer patients!
Amgen turns tragedy into sales payday
You see, chemotherapy wreaks havoc on your entire body. In fact, certain kinds of chemotherapy used to treat prostate cancer and breast cancer can disrupt hormonal function. This puts already sick patients at risk for bone fractures.
To combat the loss of bone during chemotherapy, Amgen suggested that oncologists try using Prolia on cancer patients. And in September, Amgen actually became the first drug approved to prevent bone loss in prostate and breast cancer patients.
This sweeping approval substantially increases the market share for Prolia. Experts estimate sales for the drug (given by injection) will now reach more than $1 billion.
But -- no matter how happy the women appear in the TV ads -- I still have concerns about Prolia side effects. The active ingredient in Prolia -- called denosumab -- blocks a protein that activates osteoclasts. Osteoclasts serve an important role in the body. They destroy bone.
Sure, destroying bone may not sound like a good thing, but in this case it is. The key is the type of bone.
Healthy bones are in constant flux. Your body breaks down old bone and sends it into your bloodstream. Then you absorb new calcium out of your blood stream to build new bone.
But Prolia -- just like the old bisphosphonates -- interrupts this natural cycle. It blocks bone from breaking down. So technically, you never lose bone density. But it also appears to block the building of new bone. And that could make for brittle bones. And brittle bones fracture easily.
Is it any surprise, then, that the FDA has already warned physicians to be on the lookout for increased fractures in women taking Prolia (not to mention the small jaw decay problem the FDA has also warned us about)!
Now, here's the good news I promised you...
A new study of post-menopausal women found that you can definitely increase your bone mass without taking harmful drugs! In fact, two natural secrets may even work better than drugs!
Build stronger bones without drugs
For this new study, researcher recruited 79 sedentary post-menopausal women. They divided the women into four groups.
The first group of women walked or jogged three times a week. The second group of women took 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids each day. The third group exercised and took the omega-3s. And the fourth group -- the control group -- did nothing differently. They didn't exercise or take any new supplements.
After 24 weeks, the researchers gave bone density tests to all the women. The women who exercised and took omega-3s had a clear advantage!
In fact, after just 24 weeks, these women increased BMD in their lower spine up 15 percent. Plus, they increased the density of their femurs (thigh bone) by 19 percent!
These are HUGE gains.
In fact, Amgen published the latest round of research on Prolia and possible Prolia side effects in March of this year (2011). According to this data, women treated with Prolia for five continuous years (five YEARS!) improved bone density on average by 13.7 in the spine and by just seven percent in the hip.
So you tell me...
Would you rather take a drug for five years and risk jaw bone death...or would you rather exercise three times a week and take your omega-3s?
The answer's pretty darn clear to me.
It's quite easy to get 1,000 mg of omega-3s in fish oil tablets. Just make sure to add a natural vitamin E capsule along with your fish oil. The natural vitamin E will help zap any free radicals generated by the fish oil.