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Link between widely used osteoporosis drugs and heart problems probed
Date:4/6/2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. New research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine evaluated the link between a common class of drugs used to prevent bone fractures in osteoporosis patients and the development of irregular heartbeat.

The study's findings appear in the current issue of Drug Safety, a publication of the International Society of Pharmacovigilance covering the safe and proper use of medicines.

"Some trials show there could be a potential link between the use of bisphosphonates and the development of serious heart rhythm problems, but in our study the link wasn't conclusive," said Sonal Singh, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of internal medicine and lead investigator for the study. "So we urge that additional investigations be conducted."

Bisphosphonates, found in prescription drugs including BonivaTM, FosomaxTM, ReclastTM and ActonelTM, inhibit the breakdown of bones, which reduces the risk of fractures, especially those of the spine and hips in older patients. The first such drugs were approved for use in the mid-1990s.

Early studies indicated that the use of bisphosphonates might cause problems with heart rhythm, or atrial fibrillation, which increases the risk for stroke or heart attack. For the study published this month, researchers analyzed the data from previous observational studies and clinical trials to determine the link between bisphosphonate therapy and irregular heart beat.

Researchers found that bisphosphonate use was associated with a significant increase in the incidence of "serious" heart rhythm disturbances, classified by hospitalization, disability or death resulting from the condition. However, when they included "non-serious" cases in their analysis, they found no overall increased risk of atrial fibrillation, the study shows.

"Our findings were discordant, with conflicting results," Singh said. "The challenge now is to figure out what it all means."

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Contact: Jessica Guenzel
jguenzel@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3487
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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