Blood-pressure drugs used by millions of Americans also protect against bone thinning, a condition that leads to 200,000 hip fractures a year among older people, Massachusetts scientists reported last week in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. Thiazide diuretics, used in dozens of high-blood-pressure medications that lower the body's levels of water and salt, appeared to increase or at least preserve bone density in hundreds of elderly women, the scientists said.
But the study found that the thiazides had to be in pure form to protect bones, contrary to previous findings indicating that thiazides in combinations with other drugs could offset bone thinning, or osteoporosis.
"If you got the pure form, your fracture rate dropped about 70%," said David T. Felson, associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. No lower fracture rate was found in women taking compounds combining thiazides with other drugs, such as Dyazide, Felson said. The degree of bone protection found in the pure thiazide takers was almost identical to that found in women who take the hormone estrogen to counter the effects of menopause, he added.