AUSTRALIAN researchers are encouraging people with osteoporosis or at risk of a fracture to seek treatment as drugs commonly prescribed for the condition have been shown to help prevent premature death.
Osteoporosis affects around 200 million people worldwide, and is a progressive disease in which bones become more porous and fragile, often without symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Two studies led by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research have revealed that nitrogen-bisphosphonates - drugs commonly prescribed for osteoporosis - reduced the risk of premature death by just over a third in a group of more than 6000 people who were aged over 50 years and who took part in the observational Canadian Multicentre Osteoporosis Study.
The reduction in early mortality risk was significantly associated with a reduction in bone loss compared with no treatment.
After the age of 50, 40 per cent of women and 25 per cent of men will sustain an osteoporotic fragility fracture in their life, an injury that puts them at risk of further fractures. However, currently fewer than 30 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men with fragility fractures are taking approved treatments for osteoporosis.
It's a common misconception that osteoporosis affects only women, and many people choose to not take recommended treatments.
"It's a common misconception that osteoporosis affects only women, and many people choose to not take recommended treatments," said studies-lead Professor Jacqueline Center, who heads the Clinical Studies and Epidemiology laboratory at the Garvan Institute and is an endocrinologist at St Vincent's Hospital.
"But osteoporotic fractures are not benign. Osteoporosis medication not only decreases the risk of further fractures - but it appears that this same medication also decreases mortality rates over the subsequent 15 years."
The study was published in the journal Osteoporosis International.
In a second follow-up study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, the team analysed data from a cohort of 1,735 women, from the same study. The analysis revealed that 39 per cent of the reduction in premature mortality risk was mediated through a reduction in the rate of bone loss.
"For many individuals with osteoporosis, bone health isn't front-of-mind," says first author of both studies, Garvan's Dr Dana Bliuc, Research Officer in the Clinical Studies and Epidemiology laboratory. "We hope our study results will encourage people with osteoporosis or at risk of a fracture to seek treatment - and commit to taking it."