In the study, almost 18,000 older adults were selected to take either the statin Crestor (rosuvastatin) or an inactive placebo. Of the 431 fractures during the study, 221 were among those taking Crestor and 210 were among people taking the placebo, the researchers found.
"Our study does not support the use of statin drugs in the doses used for heart disease for the prevention of bone fractures," said lead researcher Dr. Jessica Pena, an assistant professor of cardiology at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Earlier studies have suggested that statins used to treat heart disease may also reduce the risk of fracture, and researchers have thought that inflammation may be the shared link between heart disease and bone fractures, she explained.
"However, in this randomized clinical trial of men and women with evidence of inflammation, treatment with rosuvastatin did not reduce the risk of fracture during the study period," Pena said.
Although Crestor was the only statin tested, Pena said the same results have been found in studies using other statins. "Our results are consistent with and extend the findings of these studies," she said.
Dr. Robert Recker, director of the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University in Omaha, looked at the study's findings a bit differently. The study, he said, doesn't show that statins are not protective against fractures so much as it shows that statins do not increase the risk for fractures.
"I am not surprised at what they found because there isn't any biological link between heart disease and fractures," he said. "They were dispelling the myth that there might be a link between statins and fractures."
Fractures from the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis are a significant problem facing the aging U.S. population, according to background information in the study. Past research has hinted that there may be a common link between osteoporosis and heart disease. Specifically, that the same inflammation that's linked to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) may also play a part in the development of osteoporosis, the study noted.
However, Pena's team found no connection between fractures and C-reactive protein in the blood. C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation in the blood.
The results of the new study were published online Dec. 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The study included men older than 50 and women older than 60. The study volunteers were followed for up to five years, with an average follow-up time of nearly two years.
The group taking Crestor was similar in many ways to the placebo group, according to the study. Smoking rates, weight, exercise levels, alcohol intake, rates of high blood pressure and fracture history were similar in both groups, the study reported.
Of the study's findings, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, the director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "Crestor is not the one medication to take care of both heart disease and osteoporosis."
She added, "Although Crestor may help in preventing heart attacks and strokes, another medication should be used to prevent osteoporosis."
For more about statins, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.