Doctors find protection against hip fracture during cortisone treatment

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Researchers have found the osteoporosis drug alendronate is effective at protecting elderly patients on cortisone treatment against hip fracture.

Cortisone treatment to protect against inflammation conditions like rheumatoid or muscular arthritis doubles the risk of hip fracture in the elderly. Hip fractures in the elderly often lead to disability, worsened quality of life and early death.

The study, published July 11 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that patients who receive the osteoporosis drug alendronate have a reduction in the risk of hip fracture of 65 percent.

However, only one in four patients treated with cortisone receive alendronate to prevent hip fracture.

“The low number of people who receive this protective treatment is often due to a lack of knowledge and procedures in this area within the healthcare system,” Mattias Lorentzon, a professor of geriatric medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Institute of Medicine, and a senior physician at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, said in a press release.

Researchers followed 1,802 patients on cortisone treatment with prednisolone who were also prescribed alendronate for at least three months. There was also a control group of 1,802 patients who did not receive alendronate.

The study showed that 4.1 percent of patients who did not take alendronate experienced hip fractures after 15 months while just 1.5 percent of patients taking alendronate had hip fractures.

“If a patient receives the protective treatment, the risk of suffering a new fracture, and in particular the new hip fractures that we are really keen to prevent, reduces dramatically,” Kristian Axelsson, co-author and doctoral candidate, who also works as a resident physician in the orthopedics department at Skaraborgs Hospital, said.

“The number of patients receiving the treatment is quite low at present, but we are hoping this study will mean more prednisolone patients will receive the fracture-preventing treatment,” he continues.