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Charity backs bone fracture study

Researchers at the University are to study whether drugs used to treat osteoporosis prevent bone fractures from healing.

A team at the University has been awarded more than £700,000 from Arthritis Research UK to find out if a drug called alendronate affects the healing process in people with osteoporosis who have fractured their wrists.

Wrist fractures account for 15 per cent of all fractures suffered each year in the UK.

Researchers say that drugs such as alendronate - called biphosphonates - are commonly used in the treatment of osteoporosis.

However, remarkably little is known about their effects on the healing and clinical outcome of fractures.

If the study shows that alendronate has a negative effect on fracture healing, this could be important, as a patient might need to stop taking the drug after a fracture, and re-start only after the fracture has healed.

Professor Stuart RalstonArthritis Research UK Professor of Rheumatology at the University

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a common bone disease that affects nearly three million people in the UK and causes around 230,000 fractures a year.

It is caused by reduced bone mineral density and gets progressively more common with increasing age.

Bisphosphonates are effective treatments for osteoporosis and are the most widely prescribed drugs for the condition.

They work mainly by preventing the breakdown of bone but also increasing bone mineral density.

Alendronate is the most widely prescribed bisphosphonate and reduces the risk of all fractures by about 40 per cent. However, alendronate carries a warning that it may also increase fracture risk.

The study

Around 500 patients will be recruited in Edinburgh, Sheffield, and Bristol.

People taking part in the trial will be split into two groups. One group will take alendronate for the first six months after they suffered a wrist fracture and the other group will take a dummy treatment (placebo).

The differences in fracture healing between the groups will then be compared by looking at x-rays for evidence of healing, which will be taken at regular intervals up to 8 weeks after the fracture has occurred.