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Study: Bisphosphonates May Relieve OA Pain

Researchers find potential use for bone-modifying drugs (September 5)

Researchers at St. George’s, University of London, have found that bisphosphonates — a group of drugs commonly used to treat osteoporosis — may also provide pain relief for patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee or hip.

Bisphosphonates are known to augment the structure of bone and are most often prescribed to treat the fragile bones of patients with osteoporosis. It is unknown, however, whether these drugs could be used to reduce pain and discomfort in patients with OA, which causes bony growths, cartilage damage, and sore tissue.

The researchers used existing studies to assess the effectiveness of a variety of bisphosphonates in a total of 3,832 patients with OA of the hand, knee, spine, or hip.

In most cases, these drugs achieved only limited pain relief. However, a few studies suggested a potential clinical benefit. For example, the bisphosphonate alendronate was found to be more effective than pain-relieving drugs in patients with hip OA. Moreover, the use of alendronate and zoledronate improved pain in patients with knee and hip OA at 6 months.

“We found that, generally, bisphosphonates are ineffective at managing pain associated with osteoarthritis,” said lead investigator Dr. Nidhi Sofat. “But zoledronate and alendronate, which are specific forms of bisphosphonates, do show the potential for effective pain management, specifically in patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis.”

“More research needs to be carried out to determine which patients could benefit most from this type of intervention. Osteoarthritis is a long-term chronic condition, so it’s essential that we work to understand whether the use of these medicines in the long term could be tolerated.”

Source: St. George’s; September 5, 2013.

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