Bisphosphonates may have chondroprotective effects that could be of relevance in osteoarthritis. Using data from a large fracture prevention trial, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine evaluated the effect of alendronate on the progression of radiographic spinal osteophytes (OST) and disc-space narrowing (DSN).
The Fracture Intervention Trial (FIT) evaluated the effectiveness of alendronate at 5 mg/d (1st 2 years) followed by 10 mg/d (3rd year) versus placebo over 3-4 years in preventing osteoporotic fractures. In 200 randomly selected subjects from FIT, the researchers read baseline and follow-up lateral x-rays for anterior OST and DSN (both scored 0-3 at each vertebral level) in the thoracic and lumbar spine. The researchers calculated the mean difference in change in the sum of OST and DSN scores at T4 to L5 from baseline to follow-up, respectively, in each treatment arm using linear regression.
The participants’ baseline characteristics were similar in the alendronate and placebo arms. The adjusted mean change in summary OST score was less in the alendronate group compared to placebo (3.2 vs. 4.7, p=0.04), indicating that OST progression was less in the alendronate group. The adjusted mean change in summary DSN score was less in the alendronate group versus placebo for the whole spine (0.4 vs. 0.7, p=0.2), particularly when limited to the lumbar spine (0.3 vs. 0.6, p=0.04).
In this secondary analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial, alendronate was associated with less spinal OST and DSN progression than placebo. The researchers concluded that this suggests a role for bisphosphonates in altering the pathologic processes seen in osteoarthritis.
(Source: Neogi T, Nevitt MC, Ensrud KE, Bauer D, Felson DT. The effect of alendronate on progression of spinal osteophytes and disc space narrowing. Ann Rheum Dis. 2008 Feb 14 [Epub ahead of print]: PubMed: March 2008)