A drug commonly prescribed to prevent or treat osteoporosis reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death in people with hip fractures, says a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. The heart-healthy benefit to those who took alendronate (Fosamax) lasted for up to 10 years following a fracture.
Almost 35,000 patients who were newly diagnosed with a hip fracture from 2005 through 2013 were followed until late 2016. About 13 percent of them received alendronate during the follow-up.
Those who took the bone drug lowered their risk of dying from a cardiovascular problem by 67 percent. Their risk of having a heart attack was cut by 45 percent and the risk of suffering a stroke within five years was reduced by 18 percent.
Protective effects were not evident for other classes of osteoporosis treatments, including risedronate (Actonel), ibandronate (Boniva), and zoledronic acid (Reclast).
"It is well established that there is a world-wide crisis in the treatment of osteoporosis, due to patients' awareness of the extremely rare side effects," said senior author Dr. Ching-Lung Cheung, of the University of Hong Kong. "Our findings show that alendronate is potentially cardioprotective in hip fracture patients.
"Therefore, physicians should consider prescribing alendronate or other nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates to hip fracture patients soon after their fracture, and patients should also have good compliance with alendronate treatment, as this is not only good for your bones, but also your heart."
Alendronate is included in a class of drugs called bisphosphonates, and a study published in the Lancet found that a combination of two inexpensive generic drugs, aromatase inhibitors and biphosphonates, reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer when compared to the current popular treatment tamoxifen.
Aromatase inhibitors, including anastrozole, letrozole, and exemestane, suppress the manufacture of estrogens in the body and are taken by postmenopausal women with hormone-sensitive (ER-positive) breast cancer. A study published in the Lancet found they reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancers by 40 percent compared to 30 percent by tamoxifen. But they also increase bone loss.
Although usually used to treat osteoporosis, studies show that bisphosphonates alone could prevent one in six breast cancers in postmenopausal women from spreading to the bones. "The drugs are complementary, because the main side effect of aromatase inhibitors is an increase in bone loss and fractures, while bisphosphonates reduce bone loss and fractures as well as improve survival," said the study's lead statistician Richard Gray of the University of Oxford.
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