01/02/2007 - News

Alendronate has a long-lasting impact on osteoporosis risk

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Alendronate has a long-lasting impact on osteoporosis risk

Reported by Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist

Women can take a break from osteoporosis drug without losing its benefits.
Osteoporosis is common among post-menopausal women but can be treated by bisphosphonate drugs such as alendronate which increase bone density and decreases bone turnover. Alendronate decreases the risk of bone fractures among women with osteoporosis. Treatment with bisphosphonates usually continues indefinitely, although there is little information on the effect of stopping treatment or of using the drugs for more than five years.

A team at the University of California, San Francisco, now reports upon the Fracture Intervention Trial which includes a long-term investigation of alendronate. The study compared the effect on bone density of continuation of alendronate for a total of ten years with that of discontinuing it after five years.

The researchers learned that discontinuing alendronate did lead to declines in bone mineral densities at the hip and spine of 2.4 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively. But average levels still remained at above pre-treatment levels of ten years earlier. Those discontinuing alendronate did have increased markers of bone turnover compared to those still on the drug but, again, there was still less bone turnover compared with pre-treatment levels. The risk of nonvertebral fractures was similar between the two groups, although those continuing on alendronate had a 55 per cent lower risk of vertebral fractures. The findings suggest that five years treatment with alendronate gives lasting protection from osteoporosis. But those women at high risk of vertebral fractures may benefit from continuing for even longer with alendronate treatment.

Journal of the American Medical Association 27th December 2006 Volume 296 pages 2927-2938

Created on: 01/02/2007
Reviewed on: 01/02/2007

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