Prescription osteoporosis treatment adds five years to life expectancy, researchers say

A study conducted in New South Wales, Australia, has determined that a prescription osteoporosis treatment not only reduces bone loss but appears to lengthen lifespan.

Data from the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, suggests that osteoporotic individuals who take bisphosphonates live approximately five years longer than peers on other treatments.

Bisphosphonates reduce bone loss by encouraging the death of osteoclasts, which are specialized cells that break down bone tissue.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) has stated that while the drug class has been associated with some physical side effects, its health benefits tend to outweigh its risks.

One of those benefits is a lower likelihood of hip fracture, an injury that can significantly increase mortality rates among those with progressive bone loss.

The Australian team estimated that, of osteoporotic women who experience hip fractures, 50 percent are likely to die within five years of the injury.

However, only 10 percent of bisphosphonate-taking female participants over the age of 75 died over the course of the study.

Researchers also recorded similar results among a younger group of women with bone loss. They stated that the predicted five-year death rate for women under age 75 who experience hip fractures is typically around 25 percent.

In their study, no women of that group died over a five year period, provided they were taking bisphosphonates.

The study's authors noted that they adjusted their data for health awareness, since it was possible that the women on bisphosphonates were more health conscious to begin with. Even controlling for this possibility, the drug class appeared to improve five-year mortality rates compared to vitamin D and calcium replacement.

The team concluded that by keeping bones dense, bisphosphonates may prevent toxic metals stored in bone tissue from being released, thereby improving a woman's five-year outlook.

More than 35 million American women have or are at risk for osteoporosis, the NOF estimates.