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Bone. 1996 Mar;18(3 Suppl):159S-163S.

Prevention of hip fractures: drug therapy.

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Department of Endocrinology, Academic Hospital Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Drug therapy to prevent hip fractures may be considered for postmenopausal women with low bone mass and elderly people with risk factors for hip fracture. As most hip fractures occur 25 years or more after menopause, drug therapy may have to be prescribed for many years to be effective. A preventative drug should be effective, safe, and without side effects. Estrogen therapy decreases bone loss and hip fracture incident, but the effect wears off when treatment is stopped. The positive effect of estrogens on cardiovascular disease should be balanced against the increased risk of breast cancer with long-term use. The newer bisphosphonates are potent inhibitors of bone resorption and decrease bone loss substantially. Again, the effect may wear off after the drug is stopped. The bisphosphonates appear to be safe, but long-term data are lacking. Calcium and/or vitamin D may prevent bone loss in late postmenopausal women and elderly people. The combination was shown to prevent hip fractures and other peripheral fractures in elderly nursing home residents. No single drug will be used more than 10-15 years. Therefore, a public health strategy should be developed with a logical sequence of drug and nondrug interventions for the successful prevention of hip fractures.

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