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The effect of osteoporosis drugs on osteoarthritis of the knee

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, a chronic inflammatory disease marked by cartilage degradation and bone abnormalities, is a leading cause of disability among elderly people in the United States. Although drugs commonly prescribed for the disease work to ease joint pain and stiffness, they do not provide a cure. Consequently, a substantial number of people affected ultimately undergo total knee replacement surgery.

There is reason to believe that some drugs used to treat osteoporosis may also have a beneficial effect on arthritis. Recently, a nationwide team of researchers led by Laura D. Carbone, M.D., M.S. at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center evaluated the effects of such bone-strengthening drugs on knee OA in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (ABC) Study, supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging. Their findings, published in the November 2004 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/arthritis), indicate the promise of alendronate (better known as Fosamax) and estrogen to protect the knee joint from the changes of OA.

The study focused on 818 elderly women 75 was the average age enrolled in the ABC Study, a long-term study of the factors that contribute to disability in the elderly being conducted at the University of Tennessee and the University of Pittsburgh. 411 of the subjects were white; the remaining 407 were African-American. Of the total group, 214 women were taking bone antiresorptive agents, primarily estrogen or alendronate. The mean duration of drug use was 13.8 years for estrogen and 1.8 years for alendronate. There were no significant differences between the drug users and the non-users with respect to age, current smoking status, or anti-inflammatory drug therapy, although users of these drugs were more likely to be white, to be thinner, and to take calcium supplements.
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Contact: David Greenberg
dgreenbe@wiley.com
201-748-6484
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
4-Nov-2004


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