More Evidence Cholesterol Drugs Reduce Fracture Risk
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Meier's group studied nearly 4,000 fracture patients aged 50 to 89 and compared their statin use to patients of the same age range and gender with no fractures. They found that current statin use reduced fracture risk by 45%, while recent statin use reduced the risk by 33%, and any history of statin use reduced risk by 13%.
In the second JAMA paper, Philip S. Wang MD, DrPH, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, studied data collected from New Jersey residents aged 65 or older who were enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, or the Pharmacy Assistance for the Aged and Disabled program. They identified 1,222 patients who had hip fractures in 1994 and compared their statin use to 4,888 healthy people.
"We found that statin use for 180 days prior was associated with a 50% reduction in hip fracture risk, and use of statins in the prior three years was associated with a 43% decrease in risk," Wang tells WebMD.
Cummings says that although the data from this cluster of studies is very encouraging, there are factors that need to be considered For example, when drugs seem to work quickly, it may be because the people taking them were at low risk to begin with, he says. "But on the other hand, people who adhere to medications over the long haul are the ones who tend to have the best prognosis and best health status," he says.
Wang says that since published data from statin studies for cholesterol control suggest that "each statin has a slightly different effect on [cholesterol], it is possible that each would also work differently on bone."
- More studies are coming out showing that statin drugs, which are designed to lower cholesterol levels, may also be effective in treating osteoporosis.
- Researchers say there is room for caution, however, because the types of studies completed to date have been conducted by analyzing medical records, and the findings may not hold up in future research.
- In addition to lowering cholesterol, statins can also reduce the risk of stroke, lower blood pressure, and prolong the life of heart attack patients. Because older women are at risk for both heart disease and osteoporosis, a single pill that could treat both conditions would be a major breakthrough.