Osteoporosis drugs potentially causing long-term bone weakness

pharmafile | March 2, 2017 | News story | Research and Development osteoporosis 

Medication that is used to treat those suffering from weakened bones may actually be causing further damage, new research from scientists at Imperial College London has found. Long-term use of the drugs may disrupt the body’s ability to replace old bone with newer, stronger tissue leading to small cracks.

The research was conducted after it was observed that patients who had been taking bisphosphonates, the main treatment for osteoporosis, were often treated for fractures of bones. Researchers held a small study, involving only 16 patients, to determine what the reasons behind this were.

Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density and usually affects those over 65 years of age. The body continually rebuilds bone structure but, in those with osteoporosis, the breakdown of older bone occurs too rapidly, leading to a loss of bone density. Bisphosphonates slow the process of bone breakdown and therefore improves density.

The study used X-rays at the particle accelerator ring at the Diamond Light Source, which is usually used to find clues to engineering or environmental problems. The X-ray revealed that patients’ bones who had been taking bisphosphonates were found to be 33% weaker than those who had suffered fractures but had not taken the medication.

Dr Richard Abel, lead author of the study, explained: “This research suggests that, in a small number of patients, rather than protecting against fractures bisphosphonates may actually may make bones more fragile. We now urgently need larger studies to confirm this finding.”

This is a key point, as previously mentioned, the study is too small to change the method of treatment but it does raise important questions and will more than likely prompt more research. There are currently 3 million sufferers of osteoporosis and bisphosphonates are prescribed 6.5 million times a year in the UK

The global osteoporosis drugs market is predicted to reach $16.3 billion by 2025 and research of this kind could signal shifts in how future drug candidates are identified.

Ben Hargreaves

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