Osteoporosis medications might also increase lifespan

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Osteoporosis drugs

Medications taken for osteoporosis, known as bisphosphonates are found to add 5 years to lifespan in findings that researchers say apply to both men and women.

The findings come from the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study that started in 1989. Among 2000 people, a subgroup of 121 were given the osteoporosis drugs and compared to a group receiving other treatment for bone loss.

Compared to those given calcium in conjunction with or without vitamin D and hormones, the study found clear evidence of the link between bisphosphonate therapy and increased lifespan.

The study was conducted by Associate Professor Jacqueline Center and Professor John Eisman, from Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research. According to Center, "When we first looked at the figures, we thought that there had to be a fallacy, that we were missing something. One of the most obvious things might be that these are people who seek medical attention, so may be healthier and live longer. So we compared the bisphosphonate group with people taking Vitamin D and calcium or women on hormone therapy."


She says the analysis simply confirmed the findings that bisphosphonates added years to life in a comparison of people who were equally health conscious.

For women over age 75 taking a bisphosphonate, death rate dropped ten percent,, though 50 percent would be expected to die over a 5 year period. The same was true of a younger group of women among whom death rates would be expected to be 20 to 25 percent. The researchers note none of the women died.

Center says, it may be that new bone growth that comes from treating osteoporosis may halt the release of some sort of toxic metal such as cadmium. Without enough bone density those toxins might be released, adversely affecting health. The theory is speculative and the study authors say they have no real evidence of why bisphosphonates extend life.

According to the data, treating osteoporosis with bisphosphonates might prolong life another 5 years, though how that happens remains a question. Several drug companies provided grants for the study.

J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab: doi:doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2730
:Osteoporosis Medication and Reduced Mortality Risk in Elderly Women and Men: