Bones to Pick — and Preserve

By Christine |

In a recent commentary at Women’s eNews, Judy Norsigian and Heather Stephenson of Our Bodies Ourselves caution women about buying into the hype surrounding a new, once-a-year, injectable medication for osteoporosis.

While it might be a worthwhile option for women of a certain age or women with certain risk factors, most women should think long and hard before rushing out to get the bone density screenings needed to determine if you might benefit from the drug.

Although the drug companies don’t really want you to hear it, medications for postmenopausal osteoporosis have many potentially serious side effects, which Norsigian and Stephenson outline in detail.

They also emphasize that there are several risk-free measures women can take to help prevent osteoporosis. Rather than relying on medication, women can work on ensuring that their diet includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D as well as exercising regularly, quitting smoking and reducing the risk of falling (which accounts for, among other things, 9 out of 10 hip fractures in older Americans) through safety measures as well as strength training and balance exercises.

By putting the hype surrounding the new drug in a broader context — noting the “corporate interests that stand to gain by increasing women’s fears of illness and disease” — Norsigian and Stephenson have crafted a case study that can be applied to many other drug marketing efforts:

As you hear about new treatments for osteoporosis, question the sources of the information you receive. They may have ties to corporate interests that stand to gain by increasing women’s fears of illness and disease. For example, the National Osteoporosis Foundation, which is the prime promoter of National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, has received funding from Merck, the Whitehouse Station, N.J., pharmaceutical giant that markets Fosamax.

Such conflicts of interest make it harder to find trustworthy information about bone health.

But by educating themselves — and by supporting independent sources of health information — women and their doctors are able to make their own, informed decisions.

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