Wrong forces drive osteoporosis treatment – despite evidence of lack of benefit

osteoporosisAn important piece in The BMJ has received very little news media attention so far, so we thought it was important to point it out here.

Two endocrinologists wrote an Analysis piece, “Web of industry, advocacy and academia in the management of osteoporosis.”

In a nutshell, they write that:

  • Continued enthusiasm for calcium and vitamin D supplements  for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis does not reflect evidence
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements are very profitable
  • The objectivity of the National Osteoporosis Foundation in the US and International Osteoporosis Foundation may be compromised by the influence of a range of commercial sponsors, including companies that market supplements, dairy products and nutrition-related lab tests
  • The nutrition industry influences research that affects its products. It funds research, presumably hoping that outcomes will support use of its products, and sponsors meetings at which prominent academic speakers advocate nutritional supplements.

Their concluding paragraph:

“Improving transparency of the interactions between industry, academia, and advocacy organisations is desirable but reducing those interactions is more so. The emerging requirements that drug companies declare payments to health practitioners should be broadened to include supplements and food manufacturers. Advocacy organisations and specialist societies should eschew corporate sponsorship, and academics should not engage with advocacy organisations until it is clear that such commercial ties have been severed.”

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Meantime, The BMJ reports that a 1994 editorial by Doug Altman, “The scandal of poor medical research,” was voted the top paper published by the journal in a poll taken as part of the journal’s 20th online anniversary celebrations.

Altman wrote:

“What should we think about researchers who use the wrong techniques, use the right techniques wrongly, misinterpret their results, report their results selectively, cite the literature selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions? We should be appalled. Yet numerous studies have shown that all of the above phenomena are common. This is surely a scandal.” He called for “less research, better research, and research done for the right reasons.”

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