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UF endocrinologist co-authors article exploring connection between osteoporosis drugs and heart attacks

Published: January 31, 2014 By: Jesef Williams
Kent R. Wehmeier, M.D.

Might there be a strong link between heart attacks and medications used to fight osteoporosis?

Kent Wehmeier, MD, has co-authored a research article that explores the possible connection. He is a UF associate professor and chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

The article — “Myocardial Infarction Risk Among Patients With Fractures Receiving Bisphosphonates” — appeared in the January edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a medical journal sponsored by the Mayo Clinic.

The group of 11 researchers studied data from more than 14,000 military veterans 65 and older with femoral or vertebral fractures. They reviewed records that showed the first time a patient experienced acute myocardial infarction – commonly known as a heart attack – in relation to bisphosphonate exposure. Of the group, 2,197 of them were given bisphosphonates, which are drugs that prevent bone mass loss for treating conditions like osteoporosis.

The study – which took into account age, sex, race, other drug use and other existing medical conditions, among other variables – found that, of the study group, the patients who used bisphosphonates had a higher heart attack rate compared to the patients who did not use bisphosphonates.

These findings conflict with the authors’ hypothesis that the use of those drugs would lower the heart attack rate.

“Our observations in this study conflict with our hypothesis that bisphosphonates have antiatherogenic [preventing fatty deposits on arterial walls] effects. These findings may alter the risk-benefit ratio of bisphosphonate use for treatment of osteoporosis, especially in elderly men,” the study said. “However, further analysis and confirmation of these findings by prospective clinical trials is required.”

Wehmeier said he’s evaluated many patients who have a combination of diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. That observation motivated him to take part in this study.

“I asked the question, ‘What links these problems together?’” he said. “The original idea was that these medicines were originally developed to prevent calcium buildup. We thought there might be a beneficial effect on heart disease.”

Wehmeier said the January edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings is available at the UF Borland Library inside the Learning Resource Center on the UF Health Jacksonville campus, and electronically through the UF library system. The article is also available at mayoclinicproceedings.org.


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