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High doses of statins increase osteoporosis risk, shows study in animals

Researchers from the Complexity Science Hub (CSH) and the Medical University of Vienna (MedUni) have demonstrated for the first time that high doses of cholesterol-lowering statins impair bone quality in mice. The finding came as no surprise for the scientists, who observed the correlation in a big data analysis of the Austrian population in 2019.

“This is the first study to prove the connection between a high dose of statins and osteoporosis in mice,” says Peter Klimek, leader of the data analysis team at CSH and one of the authors of the study published in the Journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. “This makes it more likely that this is also happening in humans, in addition to the previous cross-sectional study with population data,” adds Klimek.

“The results of our new study confirm and prove those of our previous analysis of the Austrian population in 2019. In both investigations, we found that high doses of statins may increase the risk for osteoporosis,” states Michael Leutner, from MedUni and first author of the study. “Now, with the animal experiment, we demonstrate the cause and effect relationship.”

How it started

The paper published in 2019 laid the groundwork for this new study, according to Leutner. It was the first time a dose-dependent link was shown between the cholesterol-lowering drugs and osteoporosis diagnosis. The team discovered that high doses of statins may increase the risk of the bone-damaging condition, but also saw a protective effect, where a low dose of statins may protect against it. At that time, a health database of over 7.9 million Austrians was searched and 353,502 statin users were found. Of these, 11,701 had a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

In the new study, the team sought to better understand the observational data, as well as provide additional evidence that the mechanism is at work in animals and humans. “As a result of the first publication, we started with a translational project, which includes (an ongoing) clinical study, as well as basic science with a mouse model, and big data analysis,” explain Leutner and Alexandra Kautzky-Willer, from MedUni and last author of the paper.

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