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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Blood pressure pill 'helps bones'
X-rays showing bones
The study looked at bone fracture rates
Drugs used to treat high blood pressure could also reduce the risk of bone fractures, research has shown.

Scientists from the University of Basel, Switzerland found taking beta-blockers and another blood pressure drug, reduced fracture risk by 29%.

The Journal of the American Medical Association study looked at data on over 150,000 patients.

But the team said the findings had to be confirmed before the drugs could be recommended just to cut fracture risk.

This new research is particularly interesting as many older people maybe both on beta blockers and at risk of osteoporosis and therefore fracturing a bone
National Osteoporosis Society
Beta-blockers are used to lower high blood pressure, relieve angina, irregular heartbeats and to treat heart failure.

Animal studies had already suggested the beta-blocker propranolol increases bone formation, but very little research on potential benefits to humans had been carried out.

In this latest study, the researchers also looked at thiazide diuretics, which protect against bone loss.


The team looked at data on 30,601 patients aged 30 to 79 from the UK General Practice Research Database who had been diagnosed with a fracture between 1993 and 1999.

Researchers then compared each of them with four people of the same age and sex who had not had a fracture - a total of 12,837 - to see who had been prescribed beta-blockers prior to that date.

They found that taking beta-blockers together with thiazide diuretics, which protect against bone loss, was linked to a reduced risk of fracture of 29%.

Using beta-blockers alone for around six months was linked to a 23% reduced risk. Taking thiazides alone was associated with a 20% risk.

More research

Dr Raymond Schlienger, who led the research, told BBC News Online: "As far as we know, this is the largest study if its kind so far.

"But we need to have other studies which show the same beneficial effect.

"In patients who have no contrary indications which suggest they should not take beta-blockers who have high blood pressure, and who are also at risk of osteoporosis, it may be worth them taking the drugs.

"But we need more studies to indicate that people who do not have high blood pressure, but who are at risk of fractures, should be prescribed the drugs."

A spokeswoman for the National Osteoporosis Society said: "This new research is particularly interesting as many older people maybe both on beta blockers and at risk of osteoporosis and therefore fracturing a bone.

"However, more research is needed before beta blockers could be recommended as a treatment for osteoporosis."

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