bone loss

  1. Spinal scandal

    Surgeons hide bone treatment risks

    Medical research is a pay-for-play business. If you're willing to pay, researchers will play.

    Here's the latest: A handful of surgeons came out with a series of glowing "studies" claiming that a new bone treatment procedure had virtually no risks.

    No risks, huh?

    Nothing sets off my BS meter like those two little words -- especially when you're talking about something as complex as a bioengineered protein used to spur bone growth during spinal fusion surgeries.

    Sure enough, a new look at the data found that anywhere between 10 percent and 50 percent of patients suffered conditions such as male sterility, infection, increased pain, bone loss and -- picture the horror of this one -- unwanted bone growth.

    Are we talking an extra arm here... or just a sixth finger?

    Of course, there's a reason researchers were so willing to overlook these risks -- 62 million reasons, to be precise. Fifteen of the key surgeons behind 13 Infuse studies collected a combined $62 million in payments from Medtronic for other work, according to The Spine Journal, which devoted an entire issue to the scandal.

    And to this day, some of those researchers remain positively delusional.

    Dr. Thomas A. Zdeblick, who co-authored three of the studies, told the New York Times he had no "direct financial interest in the success of Infuse or Medtronic."

    Is this guy for real?

    The Times says Zdeblick collected more than $20 million in royalties from the company for his patents on several devices, including one used with Infuse.

    "No direct financial interest" my rear end!

    But there's a bigger problem here -- way bigger than Zdeblick or Infuse -- and that's the peer review process, which is now exposed for the joke that it is.

    Every one of those 13 studies made it through -- which shows that peers aren't doing a whole lot of reviewing.

    Think about THAT the next time you read a breathless report on the next big drug or medical device.

  2. Drugs for stronger bones could cause weaker heart

    Drugs for stronger bones could cause weaker heart

    I just came across a report saying that a group of incredibly common osteoporosis drugs has been linked to potentially deadly side effects. Findings like these are especially maddening to me because, as I've pointed out to you over the years, there are plenty of natural ways to battle the scourge of bone loss.

    The drugs in question are biphosphonates, and they apparently cause an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is an irregular heart rhythm that is a precursor to the blood clots that cause strokes and heart attacks. According to the author of the study, the risk of AF for patients using biphosphonates can be increased by as much as 68 percent.

    The study was conducted by Dr. Jennifer Miranda, an internal medicine resident working from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. And while Dr. Miranda did indicate that the true risk of an AF for patients while on biphosphonates is small - one to two percent - I believe the number of people exposed to such risks is rather high considering how widespread the use of biphosphonates is. After all, one or two percent of a group of thousands adds up pretty quick.

    Here's the kicker: Since biphosphonates increase bone mineral density, they're not just prescribed to those with osteoporosis, but also to those suffering from Paget's disease of the bone and to people with hip fractures. Its other common side effects include the usual stomach issues like nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and the like. Commercially, you may be more familiar with biphosphonates under the brand names Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, and Reclast.

    Not too long ago, I wrote to you that the incidence of osteoporosis diagnosis had increased by seven times in the last nine years - largely because of the major commercial push for drugs such as Fosamax, which is prescribed to battle the disease. This not only means that a larger number of people are popping biphosphonates, but that many of these "patients" could taking biphosphonates when they don't really have to. That's right: they could be needlessly exposing themselves to harmful side effects because they're being goaded into believing they have osteoporosis by pharmaceutical advertising.

    In the wake of this news about AF incidences connected to biphosphonates, the FDA has not mandated that there be any clinical changes in the way that the drugs are used in treatment. They say (as they always do) that they are "reviewing" the safety issues.

    In the meantime, if you're concerned about osteoporosis or are at a high risk for the disease, you should keep in mind that there are many natural supplements that can help you keep the disease at bay, and keep your bones as strong and dense as possible. Increasing your intake of vitamins K and D (don't be afraid of the vitamin D-rich sunshine!), and folic acid can help boost your body's ability to absorb calcium.

    Diabetes: The most ignored health danger

    Since I write about the dangers of diabetes so often, I suppose that I take it for granted that people see the disease as I d as one of the greatest (and most easily avoidable) risks to your health. Unfortunately, this is far from the case.

    A new CDC survey reveals that most Americans are so clueless about the dangers of diabetes and the horrific impact it can have on their well being that many survey respondents actually ranked cancer, plane crashes and - are you ready for this? - shark attack as health issues that they feared more than diabetes.

    Yes: shark attacks. And no, I don't get it, either.

    Understandably, cancer topped the list of dreaded health issues, but statistically people are at far greater risk of developing diabetes than cancer. While 10 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with a form of diabetes, only six percent will get cancer.

    According to Ann Albright of the American Diabetes Association, the sponsor of the survey, "Our point is not that people shouldn't be concerned about cancer; we are trying to help people put things in a more accurate perspective."

    Here's some perspective: stop worrying about being eaten by a shark, and start worrying about what you're eating. You'll probably live longer.

  3. A Drink or Two is Great for Your Health

    In the last Daily Dose, I reveled in some recent research (figures, it wasn't from the U.S.) that all but proves yet again what I've been saying for a long time: A daily drink or two is great for your health…

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