Bone Drug Isn't All Bad

Bisphosphonates may increase longevity of women with osteoporosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) According to Australian researchers, taking bisphosphonates (drugs used to improve bone health) may increase the life span of elderly women.

In a study of 325 women and 37 men, Dr. John A. Eisman, of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, and colleagues compared mortality rates of those taking bisphosphonates and those who were not taking the drugs. They found that more women who were not taking bone drugs died each year compared to women who were taking bone drugs. Over the course of the 15 year study, women who took the bone drugs reduced their risk of dying during the study by about two-thirds.

Bisphosphonates are used primarily to treat osteoporosis, a type of bone-thinning disease. Recently, the FDA warned that bisphosphonates may increase the risk of a certain kind of thigh fracture, and possibly of bone death in the jaw.

Consequently, many people have stopped taking these bone drugs for fear of the side effects. However, bisphosphonates are still shown to help prevent the loss of bone mass and to treat osteoporosis.

It is possible that the findings of this recent study will reestablish people's confidence in the drugs. The side effects of which the FDA warns are very uncommon. Hopefully, the increased longevity found in this study will lead patients to realize the benefits of the drug.

Osteoporosis increases one's likelihood bone fractures and breaks. As much as half of all women and a quarter of all men over the age of 50 will suffer a broken bone as a result of osteoporosis. According to a 2002 report from the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis and low bone mass affect nearly 44 million women and men 50 years of age and older in the United States.

The study's results are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 23, 2011
Last Updated:
February 24, 2011