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Medication and osteoporosis

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A nurse performs a test for osteoporosis A nurse performs a test for osteoporosis

About three million people in the UK have osteoporosis. More than 300,000 people are treated in hospital for fragility fractures (broken bones that occur from standing height or less) caused by osteoporosis every year. According to NICE, in 2011 one in 12 people (8.4%) died in the 30 days after they fractured their hip. Several recent studies can help nurses reduce the risk of disabling and potentially deadly osteoporotic fractures by targeting those at risk.

For instance, nurses could remain alert for drugs that may increase fracture risk. In a recent study, Australian researchers explored the link between common medicines and hip fractures in 8828 people. Of these, 63% were female, with a median age of 88 years.

Opioids increased hip fracture risk by 62%, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) by 54% and antipsychotics by 47%. The link between tricyclic antidepressants and hip fracture depended on the statistical method the researchers used, from a non-significant 18% increase to a significant 43% rise. The authors noted in many cases the fall risk 'is potentially modifiable,' by prescribing lower doses or alternative drugs. Other patients may be able to switch to non-pharmacological treatments, such as psychotherapy for mild-to-moderate depression.

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