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Osteoporosis bone density monitoring 'cannot be justified'

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Guidelines saying the bone density of postmenopausal women should be monitored if they are taking osteoporosis drugs is a waste of time and money, according to scientists.

Osteoporosis becomes a significant problem for older women as bone density falls due to a reduction in oestrogen levels, caused by the menopause.

To counter the risk it is suggested the density is monitored, even though is is not thought tests accurately show whether a patient is responding to treatment by osteoporosis drugs.

Researchers from the US and Australia set out to settle the issue to see how much the osteoporosis drug alendronate differed between individuals.

Analysing data of more than 6,000 women they found 97.5% of those treated with alendronate experienced a ‘modest’ increase in their bone mineral density.

The findings published in the BMJ suggest the results makes monitoring individuals’ response to treatment unnecessary.

Juliet Compston, professor of bone medicine at the University of Cambridge, said: ‘Routine monitoring during the first few years of treatment can not be justified because it may mislead patients, lead to inappropriate management decisions, and waste scarce healthcare resources.’

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