A recent study by John Hopkins rheumatologists has revealed that medication for strengthening aging bones may also be helpful in providing simultaneous protection to elderly people’s joints.
Dr. Clifton Bingham, a Johns Hopkins rheumatologist, says that he and his colleagues began to wonder if risedronate might be used to treat osteoarthritis after noticing that the drug, and other compounds in the same class of drugs, not only slowed joint damage in animals, but also reduced cartilage-irritating bone lesions in humans.
For two years, the researchers studied 2,483 arthritic men and women, from both the United States and Europe. All of them had a loss in the cartilage that cushions the knee joint, a hallmark symptom of osteoarthritis.
The participants were given either a placebo or risedronate at a range of doses, including the standard doses normally prescribed to treat bone loss. The amount of cartilage detected in their knees was measured by X-ray analysis at the one and two-year marks. Blood tests were also used to check for a marker of cartilage breakdown known as CTX-II.
“The blood tests revealed not only that risedronate stabilized bone loss, but also that it was most likely slowing the breakdown of cartilage, too” says Bingham.
The researchers however said that more work needed to be done before pronouncing the drug as a possible cure for arthritis.
“We are not recommending that everyone with arthritis run out and get a prescription for these kinds of drugs, nor are we suggesting at this time that doctors use risedronate as an arthritis treatment,” said Bingham.
“But what we can say now is that drugs affecting bone turnover need to be further evaluated for their potential effects as arthritis therapies,” he added.
He concluded that the blood test changes seen in the study suggested that people already on bone strengthening drugs might be simultaneously helping their joints.
The study has been published in the medical journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.