This finding applies to women who have started to lose their bone mass but have no fractures (primary prevention), as well as those who have lost significant bone mass and/or have had fractures (secondary prevention).
A team of Cochrane Researchers set out to evaluate the evidence behind the use of alendronate for primary and secondary prevention of bone fractures in these women. Alendronate works by inhibiting the bone break down process.
By studying the outcomes of eleven trials that involved a total of 12,068 women the researchers found significant evidence of both primary and secondary prevention against breaking bones in the back (vertebrae). In secondary prevention, there was also a statistically significant protection against fractures of other bones including those in the hip and wrist.
"This work revealed no increase in side effects in the women who were using the drugs, despite the fact that some studies outside clinical trials raise the possibility of stomach and jaw complaints," says lead author Dr George Wells, who works in the Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine at the University of Ottawa.
"As a woman gets older, her risk of having on-going health problems or dying is significantly greater if she has reduced bone density and then breaks a bone such as a hip, so it is important to find effective preventative therapies with low or no side-effects," says Wells.