Osteoporosis drugs decrease premature mortality risk
Two studies led by Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research have revealed that nitrogen-bisphosphonates — drugs commonly prescribed for osteoporosis — reduced the risk of premature mortality by 34% in a cohort of over 6000 individuals. This reduction in early mortality risk was significantly associated with a reduction in bone loss compared with no treatment.
Osteoporosis affects around 200 million people worldwide, and is a progressive disease in which bones become more porous and fragile — often without symptoms until the first fracture occurs. After the age of 50, 40% of women and 25% of men will sustain an osteoporotic fragility fracture in their life; however, currently fewer than 30% of women and 20% of men with fragility fractures are taking approved treatments for osteoporosis.
“It’s a common misconception that osteoporosis affects only women, and many people choose to not take recommended treatments,” said study leader Professor Jacqueline Center, who heads the Clinical Studies and Epidemiology laboratory at the Garvan Institute.
A Garvan-led team of international researchers has now analysed data from a cohort of 6120 participants aged over 50, who took part in the observational Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study. The analysis showed that individuals treated with nitrogen-bisphosphonates (alendronate or risedronate) had a 34% reduction in mortality risk over the subsequent 15 years, compared to non-treated individuals. The study was published in the journal Osteoporosis International.
In a follow-up study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, the team analysed data from a cohort of 1735 women from the same study. The analysis revealed that 39% of the reduction in premature mortality risk was mediated through a reduction in the rate of bone loss.
The researchers also directly compared the nitrogen-bisphosphonates with a weaker, non-nitrogen bisphosphonate and found a similar reduction in mortality risk benefit with the nitrogen-bisphosphonates. The study thus provides additional evidence that nitrogen-bisphosphonate treatment can provide significant benefits for those with osteoporosis.
“For many individuals with osteoporosis, bone health isn’t front of mind,” said Garvan’s Dr Dana Bliuc, Research Officer in the Clinical Studies and Epidemiology laboratory and first author of both studies. “We hope our study results will encourage people with osteoporosis or at risk of a fracture to seek treatment — and commit to taking it.”
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