Taking a break from osteoporosis drugs can protect bones

November 18, 2010

Taking time off from certain osteoporosis drugs may be beneficial to bone health, according to a study conducted at Loyola University Health System. Researchers found that bone density remained stable for three years in patients who took a drug holiday from bisphosphonates, a popular class of osteoporosis drugs that can cause fractures in the thigh bones and tissue decay in the jaw bone.

"These drugs are potentially harmful when taken for long durations, yet little has been known until now about the length of time patients should go without treatment for this debilitating condition," said Pauline Camacho, MD, study investigator and director of the Loyola University Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease Center. "Our study demonstrated that bones can remain stable for a number of years after these drugs are discontinued."

Doctors recommend that patients take drug holidays from bisphosphonates after four to five years. These drugs continue to stabilize bones and reduce the risk for bone loss after treatment ceases.

The study's goal was to identify the optimal drug holiday length after prolonged use of based on changes in bone mineral density and bone loss. The study evaluated 139 patients (123 females, 16 males) with osteoporosis and osteopenia, the precursor to the disease. Patients took a bisphosphonate an average of 6.8 years before beginning a drug holiday from 2005 to 2010. Over three years, five fractures occurred, but bone mineral density did not change significantly. However, did start to increase at six months. The type of bisphosphonate and the duration of treatment did not affect .

"While further research is needed to adequately assess the optimal duration of the drug holiday, we do know that patients can relatively safely discontinue their treatment for at least three years," Dr. Camacho said. "However, patients who fracture during their drug holiday should notify their physician right away so osteoporosis therapy can be resumed. Patients also should continue to see their physician to regularly monitor their bone health."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Artificial beta cells

December 8, 2016

Researchers led by ETH Professor Martin Fussenegger at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) in Basel have produced artificial beta cells using a straightforward engineering approach.

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.