Cholesterol-lowering Drugs Could Reduce Bone Fractures

June 10, 2001
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Statins - prescribed for the treatment of high cholesterol levels - appear to reduce hip and other types of fractures, according to a study by UCSF Medical Center.

In the study, hip fractures were reduced by nearly 60 percent among the individuals taking statins. Dr. Douglas C. Bauer, an internist who has been working on bone research for 11 years at UCSF, said this study demonstrates that medications may have unexpected beneficial effects and opens the possibility of developing a new class of therapeutic agents for osteoporosis.

The analysis supports previous observations in animals that statins may be useful agents for osteoporosis, but additional studies are needed to confirm this beneficial effect.

Bauer, an internist and a professor of medicine, epidemiology and biostatistics, said researchers examined the relationship between statin use and hip and non-spine fracture risk, and then combined the results of those studies using a technique called meta-analysis. "A meta-analysis of the studies support a protective effect of statins on hip and other types of fractures, although additional controlled trials of these agents among those at high risk of fracture are needed," he said.

The analysis included eight observational studies in which some men and women used statins, or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. More than 200,000 patients were studied, with statin users numbering more than 12,000 and the numbers of fractures totaling about 10,000.

Bauer and his colleagues demonstrated that statins (a drug class currently used in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases because of its blood lipid lowering properties) also can exert a protective effect on osteoporotic fractures. In related studies, other researchers hope to demonstrate that the unexpected effect of statins on bone could be the result of an enhanced production of a growth factor (BMP2) that stimulates bone formation.

Their research on "Statin Use and Fracture" was presented at the first joint meeting of the International Bone and Mineral Society and the European Calcified Tissue Society in Madrid, Spain on June 10.

In 1999, osteoporosis affected more than 35 million people in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan. It is now considered by the World Health Organization to be second only to cardiovascular disease as a leading health care concern.