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Alexa Alene | alexaalene120

Osteoporosis: The Bones of Contention

Dec 17th 2013 at 9:46 PM

Osteoporosis is big news-and big business-these days. As a disease, it emerged out of obscurity only two decades ago to become a concern for women throughout the industrialized world. Advertising campaigns in the media, fact sheets in doctors’ waiting rooms, and pharmacies continually warn women of the dangers of disappearing bone mass.

The marketing hype announces that one woman in two, over the age of 60, is likely to crumble from an osteoporotic fracture, (yet one man in three will also get osteoporosis), that the incidence of hip fracture exceeds that of cancer of the breast, cervix and uterus combined, and that 16% of patients suffering from hip fractures will die within six months, while 50% will require long-term nursing care.

The statistics also say that in the U.S., over 20 million people have osteoporosis and approximately 1.3 million people each year will suffer a bone fracture as a result of osteoporosis. In 1993, the U.S. incurred an estimated loss of US$10 billion due to lost productivity and health care costs related to osteoporosis.2 However, it is very important to put these statistics into perspective. While it is true that death occurs in men and women who have hip fractures, these people are usually very elderly and frail. People who die from hip fractures are not only the most frail, but are also ailing from other conditions.

Women are constantly bombarded with the message that the war on bone loss must include calcium supplements and a daily consumption of calcium-rich foods, primarily dairy products. Doctors strongly recommend long-term use of (synthetic) estrogen to these postmenopausal woman, and, if additional help is required, suggest the use of bone-building drugs like Fosamax. So, armed with this powerful arsenal, a woman is assured that she will walk tall and be fracture-free through the latter part of her life. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.

The most popular treatments for osteoporosis are, in fact, dangerous to women’s health. For one thing, synthetic estrogen is a known carcinogenic drug, and in addition to this, most calcium supplements are not only ineffectual in rebuilding bone, but they can actually lead to mineral deficiencies, calcification, and kidney stones. And contrary to popular belief, dairy products have been proven to be a leading cause of bone loss.

Osteoporosis has spawned a phenomenal growth industry. The sale of just one estrogen drug, Premarin, grossed US$940 million worldwide in 1996.3 The U.S. dairy industry is thriving with its annual US$20 billion of revenue.4 And the sale of calcium supplements has spiralled upwards into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The osteoporosis industry has not only created a huge market for its wares; it has also been specifically designed to target women. Obviously, the fear-mongering advertising campaign about osteoporosis as a “silent thief”, stalking women’s bones, has paid off. Unfortunately, unsuspecting women are unaware they are really being stalked by an unholy alliance of the pharmaceutical companies, the medical profession, and the dairy industry, who have orchestrated one of the most successful and well-planned marketing manoeuvres in history.

By distorting the facts, by manipulating the statistics, and by withholding scientific research in the pursuit of profits, this powerful alliance has once again jeopardized lives by exposing women to an increased incidence of such illnesses as breast and ovarian cancer, strokes, liver and gall bladder disease, diabetes, heart disease, allergies, kidney stones, and arthritis.

The Second World War heralded a major turning point in medicine. In the pre-war period, drug companies were mostly small businesses primarily concerned with making herbal formulas. The emergence of a more sophisticated science after the war would change the face of medicine forever.

According to Sandra Coney, author of The Menopause Industry: “By harnessing the power and prestige of science, medicine moved into a new ‘modern’ era, rendering the “healing hands” approach obsolete. Medicine could develop a technocracy in which the experts were armed with chemistry and machinery.”5

The development of synthetic hormones parallels the growth of the drug companies. The creation of the first synthetic estrogen, diethylstilboestrol (better known as DES), shortly followed by the discovery of a process which synthesized steroid hormones from the urine of pregnant mares (the drug is known as Premarin), finally brought a cheap source of estrogen onto the market.

The introduction of oral contraceptives in 1960 initiated the first widespread use of these drugs by women. A few years later, in 1966, the menopausal woman became the focus of this ever-expanding industry.

The unfortunate myth, that all menopausal women would suffer total rack and ruin of their bodies and minds without supplementation of estrogen, spread like wildfire through the industrialized countries. It was a bonanza for the drug companies, as women flocked to partake of this supposed “fountain of youth” pill.

Although warnings about estrogen had been made sporadically for nearly 30 years, the rush for profits virtually ignored them. In particular, it was known that estrone, the form of estrogen in Premarin, is associated with the development of endometrial cancer.

Sandra Coney writes: “As early as 1947, it was reported by a young researcher at Columbia University, Dr Saul Gusberg, that there was a steady stream of oestrogen users requiring diagnostic curettage for abnormal bleeding. The pathology reports from the curettes showed overstimulation of the endometrium.”

The bubble burst in 1975 with the publication of a major study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, which showed that the risk of endometrial cancer increased 7.6 times in women using estrogen. Longer-term users were at even greater risk. Women who used estrogen for seven of more years were 14 times more likely than non-users to develop endometrial cancer

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