Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs): New alternatives for osteoarthritis?


      The dramatic rise in the prevalence rate of osteoarthritis (OA) after the menopause and the presence of estrogen receptors in joint tissues suggest that estrogen may help protect against the development of OA. Trials of estrogen therapy have produced inconclusive results, however, partly because of flaws in study design and partly because of the complexity of the mechanisms underlying estrogen's effects on joint tissues. Initial studies of the use of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) have reported beneficial effects in OA. These agents may exert both a direct effect upon joint cartilage and indirect effects on subchondral bone, synovium, muscle, tendons and ligaments. SERMs may be particularly beneficial for postmenopausal patients with osteoporotic OA, a phenotype defined by decreased bone density, associated with high remodeling in subchondral bone. More research is needed, though, before SERMs can become a therapeutic option for OA.


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