Diuretics May Prevent Hip Fractures

Inexpensive Hypertension Drugs may Have Hidden Bone Benefits

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 29, 2003
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 16, 2003 -- An inexpensive drug commonly used to fight high blood pressure may also fight another common health problem faced by older people -- hip fractures.

A new study shows people over 55 who took thiazide diuretics for a year or more had about a 50% lower risk of suffering a potentially debilitating hip fracture than those who never took diuretics.

Thiazide diuretics are often used to treat high blood pressure, but researchers say they may also protect against age-related bone loss by reducing the amount of calcium expelled in urine.

Most hip fractures are a result of the bone-weakening disease osteoporosis. Researchers say the findings suggest that long-term treatment with diuretics may help in preventing the accelerated bone loss associated with osteoporosis.

Drugs May Slow Bone Loss

In the study, published in the Sept. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers followed 7,891 men and women over age 55 in the Netherlands for eight to nine years.

By the end of the study, 281 hip fractures had occurred. Researchers then compared the number of hip fractures among people who had taken thiazide diuretics and those who had not been prescribed the drugs and how long they were treated with thiazide diuretics.

The study showed that people who had used thiazide diuretics for a year or more were about half as likely to suffer a hip fracture than those who had never used them. The protective benefits of thiazide diuretics disappeared within four months after patients stopped taking the drugs.

Researcher Marieta W.C.J. Schoofs, MD, MSc, of Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues say more research is needed to determine whether the effects of thiazide diuretics are similar to or enhance those of other drugs used to prevent hip fractures.

Thiazide diuretics are inexpensive and have few side effects. Researchers say the drugs are often recommended as the first line of treatment for high blood pressure, but prescription rates for the drugs have decreased in recent years as other anti-hypertensive medications have entered the market.

High blood pressure is a common medical problem that often requires long-term treatment, and researchers say their findings suggest that using thiazide diuretics to treat hypertension in this manner may also have the added benefit of lowering the risk of hip fracture.