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Osteoporosis Health Center

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New Evidence of Fracture Risk From Bone Drugs

Study Shows Rare Risk of Femur Fracture From Bisphosphonates

Popularity of Bisphosphonates continued...

The women were followed until the spring of 2009, during which time 716 were hospitalized for thigh bone fractures. These cases were matched with almost 3,600 women in the group who did not suffer the thigh-related fractures.

Women who took bisphosphonates for five years or longer were found to have a 2.7-fold greater risk for the fractures than women who took them for less than 100 days.

A secondary analysis found that women who took a bisphosphonate for three or more years had about a 24% lower risk of osteoporosis-related fractures than women who took the drugs for less than 100 days.

The researchers concluded that some long-term bisphosphonate users may benefit from a “drug holiday” -- stopping the drugs for a while and then restarting -- but Park-Wyllie says this has not been studied.

Bisphosphonates: Risks vs. Benefits

Nelson Watts, MD, who directs the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at the University of Cincinnati, says people who need to be on bisphosphonates should not be afraid to take them.

“If there is a causal association, this study suggests that it is extremely small,” he says. “Even if such an association is proven, the benefits of these drugs clearly outweigh the risks for most patients.”

Watts points to research suggesting that just one in five older women who have had a fracture are tested for osteoporosis or treated for the condition.

“The big story here is that so many people who could benefit from these drugs are not taking them,” he says. “If we were able to get everyone tested who should be tested and everyone treated who should be treated, we would cut the fracture risk in half.”

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