Bisphosphonate use in the horse: what is good and what is not? Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Bisphosphonates (BPs) are a family of molecules characterized by two key properties: their ability to bind strongly to bone mineral and their inhibitory effects on mature osteoclasts and thus bone resorption. Chemically two groups of BPs are recognized, non-nitrogen-containing and nitrogen-containing BPs. Non-nitrogen-containing BPs incorporate into the energy pathways of the osteoclast, resulting in disrupted cellular energy metabolism leading to cytotoxic effects and osteoclast apoptosis. Nitrogen-containing BPs primarily inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis resulting in the disruption of intracellular signaling, and other cellular processes in the osteoclast. BODY: BPs also exert a wide range of physiologic activities beyond merely the inhibition of bone resorption. Indeed, the breadth of reported activities include inhibition of cancer cell metastases, proliferation and apoptosis in vitro. In addition, the inhibition of angiogenesis, matrix metalloproteinase activity, altered cytokine and growth factor expression, and reductions in pain have been reported. In humans, clinical BP use has transformed the treatment of both post-menopausal osteoporosis and metastatic breast and prostate cancer. However, BP use has also resulted in significant adverse events including acute-phase reactions, esophagitis, gastritis, and an association with very infrequent atypical femoral fractures (AFF) and osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). CONCLUSION: Despite the well-characterized health benefits of BP use in humans, little is known regarding the effects of BPs in the horse. In the equine setting, only non-nitrogen-containing BPs are FDA-approved primarily for the treatment of navicular syndrome. The focus here is to discuss the current understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of BPs in equine veterinary medicine and highlight the future utility of these potentially highly beneficial drugs.

published proceedings

  • BMC Vet Res

author list (cited authors)

  • Mitchell, A., Watts, A. E., Ebetino, F. H., & Suva, L. J.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Mitchell, Alexis||Watts, Ashlee E||Ebetino, Frank H||Suva, Larry J

publication date

  • January 2019