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Osteoporosis Drugs May Be Weakening Bones

Update Date: Mar 06, 2017 07:00 AM EST

Bisphosphonates are used to treat fractures, osteoporosis and other bone injuries. London researchers found out however that the drug might be related to weakening the bones and making them more fragile.

Osteoporosis affects over 200 million people around the world and it is common among women over the age of 65. It usually affects the hips, wrist and spine.

During the course of life, bones are constantly broken down and remade naturally. With osteoporosis, bones are being broken down faster than the body can repair it. Hence Bisphosphonate drugs, the main treatment for osteoporosis, are introduced to slow down bone aging and break down.

The drug has proven to be an extremely successful remedy to bone damage and commonly prescribed by doctors. Bisphosphonates have been found to lower the risk of fractures by 30 to 50 per cent.

According to the Imperial College London, an estimated 6.5 million Bisphosphonate prescriptions are made every year in the United Kingdom alone. Globally, it's to be around 190 million.

In recent years, doctors began to be concerned because of the increasing rates of fractures from older patients who have been taking the drugs for quite some time.

Dr. Richard Abel from Imperial College's Department of Surgery and Cancer lead a team to determine if indeed bones of patients who have been taking Bisphosphonate drugs are weaker compared to untreated controlled subjects.

According to BBC, Dr. Abel and his team took bone samples from 16 patients who have been diagnosed with weak bone condition osteoporosis. These patients suffered from hip-fractures and were given Bisphosphonate drugs for their injuries.

The team took samples to the Diamond Light Source synchrotron to get a high resolution visual of the bone. The Diamond Light Source is a massive doughnut-shaped particle accelerator located in the Harwell campus in Oxfordshire.

The particle accelerator basically shoots X-rays of the bones with light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. This allowed the team to get the best detailed visualization of the bone samples.

Surprisingly, the team found microscopic cracks on the samples. Those with Bisphosphonate prescriptions were found to be 33 percent weaker than those of the untreated controlled subjects.

While this finding suggests that Bisphosphonates do make bones weaker, Dr. Abel and his team agreed that there needs to be further and bigger investigation. Doctors also agree that there is no need to discontinue medication at this time.

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