Medical Minute: Preventing Osteoporosis

It costs pennies per pill, and it's proven to reduce heart disease and stroke. Now research shows a blood pressure medication taken by about ten million Americans also has another benefit.

Virginia Neumaier takes thiazide to lower her blood pressure. The little pink tablet has long been used as a diuretic and now, may also prevent osteoporosis.

The findings come from a study of more than 300 older adults.

"Women who took 25 milligrams of thiazide each day for three years ended up having bone density that was about one percent better than women who took placebo for the three years," says Dr. Andrea LaCroix.

Over time, that increase adds up; Andrea LaCroix says other studies show long-term use can reduce the risk of hip fractures by 30 percent. That's especially important for postmenopausal women like Virginia. She took estrogen to prevent osteoporosis, until a study showed it increases the risk for breast cancer and heart attacks.

"Without that medicine in our armamentarium, it's nice to know there are other medicines that can preserve bone density," says Dr. LaCroix.

The other advantage is the cost. A three-month supply costs less than five dollars. Since thiazide is not a big money maker, LaCroix says drug companies don't study or promote it, part of the reason many doctors and patients don't know about the added benefit.

For more information, contact:

Andrea Z. LaCroix, Ph.D.
Center for Health Studies
Group Health Cooperative
1730 Minor Ave., Suite 1600
Seattle, WA 98101-1448
(206) 667-6747

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