Garvan Insitute scientists suggest new approach for treating patients with brittle bones

August 29, 2005

Scientists from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, Australia, are suggesting a new approach to determining the risk of fracture in individuals with the brittle bone disease, osteoporosis, which could have treatment implications. Their finding, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, is based on data from a fifteen-year epidemiology study and shows that calculating bone loss, by having at least two bone mineral density (BMD) measurements taken a minimum of 1-2 years apart, can improve the accuracy of fracture risk assessment.

Currently a bone density (DXA) scan is used to diagnose osteoporosis but, in Australia, treatment is usually only prescribed when an individual has had a fracture - regardless of BMD levels. Individuals with low BMD, despite being at high risk of fractures, are not commonly considered for drug treatment even though experts suggest that they should have preventative medication.

One in two women and one in three men over the age of 60 will have a fracture due to osteoporosis* and, with an ageing population, the total numbers of sufferers is increasing. Fractures are a major cause of pain, disability and premature death.

There are medicines available to treat those with brittle bones. Many clinical trials have shown that a drug that moderately increases BMD (e.g. by 3 to 4%) can reduce fracture risk by as much as half. The cost of measuring BMD by a DXA scan is relatively small, but the cost of treatment - if all individuals with low BMD are treated - is significant at the population level. The cost/benefit of mass screening of osteoporosis has been debated in Australia for some time and the issue boils down to how much money should be spent to prevent one fracture.

Associate Professor Tuan Nguyen, who is a joint head of the Epidemiology group of the Bone and Mineral Research Program at the Garvan Institute, says: "We know that low bone mineral density is the most important risk factor for fracture; paradoxically, almost half of women with fractures do not have low BMD. If we wish to treat those most at risk from osteoporotic fractures, a two-stage screening approach where individuals with low BMD and increased bone loss are treated could improve the cost-effectiveness".

*This adds up to 70,000 preventable fractures per year, with total direct and indirect costs running to over 7 billion dollars per year (Osteoporosis Australia).
-end-
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Eight hundred and fifty-eight men and 1358 women aged 60+ years (as at 1989) of Caucasian background participated in the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study.

Participants' BMD was measured up to 6 times by a special form of x-ray (DXA). Bone loss was calculated and related back to fractures recorded during the study to establish fracture risk. As fractures are relatively rare events, this is probably the only data in the world that could be used to investigate the link between bone loss and fracture risk.

This study was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, July 2005, Volume 20, Number 7 (http://www.jbmr-online.com/fulltext/02007/11950/JBMR0200711950.html).

Every 8 minutes, someone is admitted to an Australian hospital with an osteoporotic fracture. This is expected to rise to every 3-4 minutes by the year 2021. http://www.osteoporosis.org.au/html/aboutosteomain.php

About Garvan

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research was founded in 1963 by the Sisters of Charity. Initially a small research department of St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, it is now one of Australia's largest medical research institutions with over three hundred scientists, students and support staff. The Garvan Institute has six main research programs: Arthritis & Inflammation, Bone & Mineral, Cancer, Diabetes & Obesity, Neurobiology and Pituitary.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact:
In the UK, Branwen Morgan +44 (0) 77 92245247, e-mail b.morgan@garvan.org.au. In Australia, Liz Eassie +61 (2) 9295 8117, mobile: 0409 785 840, e-mail: l.eassie@garvan.org.au

Research Australia

Related Osteoporosis Articles from Brightsurf:

New opportunities for detecting osteoporosis
Osteoporosis can be detected through low dose computed tomography (LDCT) imaging tests performed for lung cancer screening or other purposes.

Oxytocin can help prevent osteoporosis
In a laboratory experiment with rats, Brazilian researchers succeeded in reversing natural processes associated with aging that lead to loss of bone density and strength.

New strategy against osteoporosis
An international research team has found a new approach that may be able to reduce bone loss in osteoporosis and maintain bone health.

New review on management of osteoporosis in premenopausal women
An IOF and ECTS Working Group have published an updated review of literature published after 2017 on premenopausal osteoporosis.

Cardiac CT can double as osteoporosis test
Cardiac CT exams performed to assess heart health also provide an effective way to screen for osteoporosis, potentially speeding treatment to the previously undiagnosed, according to a new study.

Osteoporosis treatment may also protect against pneumonia
A recent study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates (N-BPs) such as alendronate, which are widely used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis, are linked with lower risks of pneumonia and of dying from pneumonia.

New pharmaceutical target reverses osteoporosis in mice
Biomedical engineers at Duke University have discovered that an adenosine receptor called A2B can be pharmaceutically activated to reverse bone degradation caused by osteoporosis in mouse models of the disease.

A link between mitochondrial damage and osteoporosis
In healthy people, a tightly controlled process balances out the activity of osteoblasts, which build bone, and osteoclasts, which break it down.

Many stroke patients not screened for osteoporosis, despite known risks
Many stroke survivors have an increased risk of osteoporosis, falls or breaks when compared to healthy people.

Many postmenopausal women do not receive treatment for osteoporosis
The benefits of treating osteoporosis in postmenopausal women outweigh the perceived risks, according to a Clinical Practice Guideline issued today by the Endocrine Society.

Read More: Osteoporosis News and Osteoporosis Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.