What a difference 20 years makes…

As an anthropologist, I have the opportunity to study how different cultures react to change. I enjoy seeing how an idea that at first seems impossible or “radical” eventually becomes accepted by the mainstream.

For example, in January of 1992, AT&T released the first video-telephone, costing a mere $1,499. How many of us realized then that 20 years later it would be common to be video chatting on our cell phones… even on a daily basis?

Thinking back to my work 20 years ago, I was one of the few advocating that there was more to osteoporotic fractures than low bone density and also, that women had natural options to strengthen their bones. Now, let me be clear, I wasn’t saying these things because I was a genius — I was saying them because they were supported by impressive research. But then, as timing would have it, the natural approach became overshadowed with the approval of Fosamax in 1995.

That’s why I was delighted recently to see that leaders in the field are now expanding their perspective regarding what is the best approach for bone health.

In a January 18, 2012 article in The New York Times titled “Patients With Normal Bone Density Can Delay Retests, Study Suggests,” medical reporter Gina Kolata writes that the study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine, “is part of a broad rethinking of how to diagnose and treat” bone loss.

Kolata then points out how the medical community itself isn’t convinced bone drugs are your best option for bone health. To be exact, Kolata writes “…medical experts no longer recommend the medicines (bisphosphonates) to prevent osteoporosis itself. They no longer want women to take them indefinitely, and no longer consider bone density measurements the sole defining factor in deciding if a woman needs to be treated.”

I am also impressed by Dr. Ethel S. Siris, an osteoporosis researcher at Columbia University interviewed by the Times, who noted that osteopenia is a risk factor, not a disease. I am hoping to talk with Dr. Siri about her work in an upcoming blog post.

I find it encouraging that attitudes seem to be shifting away from such a narrow view of bone health. Let’s hope that the “radical” thoughts about bone drugs and bone health advance as quickly as phone technology!

 

References:

The New York Times, Kolata, G. Patients With Normal Bone Density Can Delay Retests, Study Suggests, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/health/bone-density-tests-for-osteoporosis-can-wait-study-says.html?_r=1,(Accessed 01.31.12)

Gourlay, Mararet L, M.D., M.P.H2012. Bone-Density Testing Interval and Transition to Osteoporosis in Older Women. N Engl J Med 2012; 366:225-233 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1107142 (Accessed 01.31.12)


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