10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 18 million suffer from low bone mass that puts them at risk for osteoporosis. There are a growing number of bone-strengthening drugs available, including Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, and Evista.
All of these treatments are proven to increase bone density, but some doctors say they don't do much to prevent fractures - which is the ultimate goal.
Writing this week in the British Medical Journal, several European physicians argue the drugs are over-hyped, expensive, and over-prescribed. They reviewed the medical literature and found convincing evidence that the medications reduced bone breaks in patients with osteoporosis, but the benefits to those with minimal bone loss were less clear.
Researchers estimate that 270 women would have to take the drugs for 3 years to prevent just one spinal fracture. Experts say there are a number of other ways for seniors to reduce their fracture risk, such as getting regular exercise, taking calcium, and keeping walkways clear both inside and outside the home.
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