Statins, bone formation and osteoporosis: hope or hype?
Osteoporosis is a major health problem affecting both men and women. Statins, besides their action as lipid-lowering agents, seem to have additional pleiotropic properties, among them a beneficial effect on bone mineral density. The entirety of experimental and the majority of clinical studies as well as the only relevant meta-analysis suggest that statins have an anabolic effect on bone metabolism. Statins, osteoporosis and adipogenesis share the same pathway, RANKL/OPG. It would appear that an imbalance in this pathway could be responsible for the manifestation of some metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, atherogenesis, multiple myeloma, osteoporosis. Possibly in the future, drugs which can intervene in this biochemical and pathophysiological cascade, like statins, in a variety of doses, could be used for the management of ectopic ossification syndromes and other bone disorders, even as an additive treatment. Until then, further large longitudinal randomized controlled studies for each statin separately are required to confirm this hypothesis.
All the available data from the literature, including evidence from experimental studies as well as from the vast majority of observational studies and the results of a single meta-analysis, suggested that there is a positive effect of statins on BMD, although another meta-analysis by Bauer et al72 showed evidence that the beneficial effects on BMD and on fracture risk are observational, while many limitations and the placebo-controlled trials did not demonstrate any clear-cut benefit. However, the in vitro and some clinical studies (Chuengsamarn et al71) suggest that statins inhibit bone resorption and stimulate bone formation, having a dual action on bone metabolism. Therefore, in the future statins might gain a position among drugs used for the prevention and management of osteoporosis, taking into account that clinicians already have a good deal of experience in prescribing statins, for other indications, and feel familiar with this drug family. Their anabolic and anti-resorptive effects on bone make them an ideal candidate for osteoporosis treatment.