Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Font Size

Drugs for Bone Loss May Also Help the Heart

Study Shows Patients Taking Combination of Didronel and Lipitor Have Fewer Heart Attacks
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 28, 2011 -- An early report of a new study shows that the first-generation bisphosphonate, Didronel, in combination with the cholesterol drug Lipitor reduced abdominal aortic plaques by about 12% in people with high cholesterol, compared to 1% in people on Lipitor alone.

Those in the combination-therapy group also had fewer serious heart events over two years, like heart attacks, procedures to open clogged arteries, hospital admissions, and deaths from heart disease, than those who took Lipitor alone.

Didronel is FDA-approved to treat osteoporosis and Paget’s disease, which causes bones to form abnormally, making them enlarged and brittle.

Didronel is “a first-generation bisphosphonate, and it has weaker therapeutic ability in inhibiting bone resorption, but stronger ability in preventing vascular calcification, than that of newer generation bisphosphonates,” says study researcher Tetsuya Kawahara, MD, of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s 2011 Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology Scientific Sessions in Chicago. Experts say it adds to a growing body of research suggesting that bisphosphonate drugs, particularly the older, non-nitrogen containing bisphosphonates, may also help treat heart disease.

“There have been some other, smaller studies done that have looked at carotid artery thickness in response to bisphosphonates, and it was shown that bisphosphonates reduce the thickness of the carotid artery,” says Ravi Dave, MD, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Now, with the aging of the population that is at risk for having all these plaques, we need to put them on Lipitor and they’re also on bisphosphonates, it’s an added sort of benefit for these patients,” says Dave, who was not involved in the research.

But other experts caution that the research is too preliminary to act on, saying that larger, better-controlled studies are needed before bisphosphonates can be considered a valid treatment for heart disease.

Some studies have also suggested that bisphosphonates may be linked to atrial fibrillation, or disturbance of the heart’s pumping rhythm.

Bone Drugs and Atherosclerosis

The study followed 251 people who had high cholesterol with no other symptoms.

Participants were randomly assigned to take either 20 milligrams of Lipitor each day or to take Lipitor with 400 milligrams of Didronel.

Both groups had similar reductions in cholesterol: 44% in the combination-therapy group and 45% in the Lipitor group.

And they had similar reductions in the size of plaques in the thoracic aorta, the part of the artery that sits inside the chest, which were reduced by 13% in the Lipitor group compared to 15% in the combination therapy group.

Changes to plaques in the abdominal aorta, the part that travels near the stomach and past the kidneys, however, were substantially different, with a 1% reduction in the Lipitor-only group compared to a 12% reduction in the combination therapy group.

So what might account for changes in plaques to one part of the artery but not the other?

“The reason for this discrepancy may be the difference in plaque constituents between the thoracic and abdominal aorta,” Kawahara says. “In the thoracic aorta, fatty streaks are common, while in the abdominal aorta, fibroblasts and calcified plaques are frequently observed.”

Experts think bisphosphonates may slow the formation of plaques because they block enzymes important to making cholesterol, and they appear to suppress white blood cells that are a key part of plaque formation.

The researchers agreed, however, that studies are needed to repeat the findings and clarify the drugs’ mechanism of action in heart disease before bisphosphonates can be considered to treat heart disease.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
Compressed heart
Article
chocolate glazed donut and avocado
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
Slideshow
Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
Quiz
 
Food & Fitness Planner
TOOL
Attractive salad
ARTICLE
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
worst sandwich slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Fat Foods Fit Foods
SLIDESHOW
Bad Cholesterol
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections