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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Osteogenesis and osteoclast inhibition in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with bisphosphonates alone or in combination with pitavastatin over an 18-month follow-up after more than 4 years of treatment with bisphosphonates

Masakazu Nagashima1*, Hiroshi Takahashi1, Kenichi Shimane1, Yuichi Nagase1 and Koichi Wauke2

Author affiliations

1 Department of Rheumatology, Tokyo Metropolitan Bokutoh Hospital, Kohtohbashi 4-23-15, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-8575, Japan

2 Hospitality Care Garden Seisei Rehabilitation Hospital, Kasuga 2-12-25, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka 420-0823, Japan

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Citation and License

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2012, 14:R224  doi:10.1186/ar4063

Published: 18 October 2012



To investigate the effects of bisphosphonates (Bis) (etidronate, alendronate, and risedronate), alone and in combination with statin, on the BMD (bone mineral density) and bone metabolism of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.


Seventy-seven RA patients who had been receiving prednisolone (PSL) and Bis for over 4 years were divided into two groups: Bis and Bis + statin (n = 42 and 35; average age, 66.4 and 65.3 years; average disease duration, 24.9 and 20.8 years; average PSL dose, 2.4 and 2.7 mg, respectively). Serum levels of NTX (N-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen), TRACP-5b (tartrate-resistant acid phosphate-5b), PICP (C-terminal propeptide of type I procollagen), and RANKL (receptor activator of NF-κB ligand) were measured over an 18-month period of treatment and follow-up. The BMD levels of the two groups at the radius, lumbar spine, and femoral neck were compared using DXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry).


A significant increase was only observed in the BMD of the lumbar spine at 18-months, but the BMDs of the radius and femoral neck decreased during the follow-up period in the Bis group. Meanwhile, a significant increase was observed in the BMD of the lumbar spine in the Bis + statin group during administration and the BMDs of the radius and femoral neck stayed at baseline. Among the markers of bone metabolism, serum NTX was up-regulated after 6 months in the Bis + statin group. Serum TRACP-5b was significantly increased during the follow-up period in the Bis + statin group, but only at 18 months in the Bis group. Serum PICP recovered to base line in the Bis + statin group, whereas that in the Bis group did not observably recover during the post-administration follow-up, but rather decreased.


Our findings suggest that both bone resorption and bone formation were inhibited by long-term administration of Bis alone, whereas combination therapy with Bis + statin may be associated with a less marked inhibition of bone metabolism. Cardiovascular disease is highly prevalent in RA patients and some patients are prescribed statins and bisphosphonate. Bis + statin may confer more benefit to the bone metabolism of these patients compared to Bis alone.