Dem Bones Gonna Rise Again

Bone density drugs extend life in spite of the aging process

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

(RxWiki News) It is always nice to report when a drug benefiting one health issue accidentally benefits another! Fosamax, Boniva and Actonel (bisphosphonates), prescribed to increase bone density in osteoporosis patients, appears to extend the lives of patients as well.

Associate Professor Jacqueline Center and Professor John Eisman, from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research, based their findings on data from the long running Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study.

"Fosamax, Boniva and Actonel may extend life spans."

Professor Center recounts thinking there was something wrong in the study's results. One of the most obvious considerations might be that the group of people receiving biphosphonates are people who seek medical attention, so perhaps they would naturally be healthier and live longer.

Then the research team compared the bisphosphonate group with to other health-minded groups. Group one was comprised of people just taking vitamin D and calcium. Group two was comprised of women on hormone therapy.

These two groups also take good care of themselves, but their numbers were not dramatically life extending like the group taking biphosphonates.

Of the group of women with osteoporotic fractures over the age of 75, one would normally expect 50 percent to die over a period of five years. In the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study, however,  the women in that age group who took bisphosphonates had the  death rate dropped to only 10 percent. Quite a significant difference, Center observed.

In the study group of  women taking bisphosphonates and younger than 75, there were no deaths. Professor Eisman shares that bones act as a repository for toxic heavy metals.

Eisman says as older people start losing their bone density, there is nowhere for these heavy metals to lodge. So, the toxic metals are reverted back to the body which may lead to body deterioration and death. A case of needing to get the lead out.

Eisman surmises that because bisphosphonates prevent bone loss, it also may prevent some of this toxic metal release. This theory needs to be further studied.

The Study

  • 121 people were treated with bisphosphonates for an average of 3 years
  • Other sub-groups taking other forms of treatment: Vitamin D (with or without calcium) or hormone therapy
  • Longer life associated with bisphosphonate treatment was pronounced
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Review Date: 
May 16, 2011
Last Updated:
May 26, 2011