Diabetes pharmacotherapy and effects on the musculoskeletal system

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63 Scopus citations


Persons with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have a significantly higher fracture risk than age-matched persons without diabetes, attributed to disease-specific deficits in the microarchitecture and material properties of bone tissue. Therefore, independent effects of diabetes drugs on skeletal integrity are vitally important. Studies of incretin-based therapies have shown divergent effects of different agents on fracture risk, including detrimental, beneficial, and neutral effects. The sulfonylurea class of drugs, owing to its hypoglycemic potential, is thought to amplify the risk of fall-related fractures, particularly in the elderly. Other agents such as the biguanides may, in fact, be osteo-anabolic. In contrast, despite similarly expected anabolic properties of insulin, data suggests that insulin pharmacotherapy itself, particularly in type 2 diabetes, may be a risk factor for fracture, negatively associated with determinants of bone quality and bone strength. Finally, sodium-dependent glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitors have been associated with an increased risk of atypical fractures in select populations, and possibly with an increase in lower extremity amputation with specific SGLT2I drugs. The role of skeletal muscle, as a potential mediator and determinant of bone quality, is also a relevant area of exploration. Currently, data regarding the impact of glucose lowering medications on diabetes-related muscle atrophy is more limited, although preclinical studies suggest that various hypoglycemic agents may have either aggravating (sulfonylureas, glinides) or repairing (thiazolidinediones, biguanides, incretins) effects on skeletal muscle atrophy, thereby influencing bone quality. Hence, the therapeutic efficacy of each hypoglycemic agent must also be evaluated in light of its impact, alone or in combination, on musculoskeletal health, when determining an individualized treatment approach. Moreover, the effect of newer medications (potentially seeking expanded clinical indication into the pediatric age range) on the growing skeleton is largely unknown. Herein, we review the available literature regarding effects of diabetes pharmacotherapy, by drug class and/or by clinical indication, on the musculoskeletal health of persons with diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3100
JournalDiabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • DPP4 inhibitors
  • GLP-1 agonists
  • SGLT2 inhibitors
  • alpha glucosidase inhibitors
  • amylin mimetics
  • biguanides
  • bone mineral density
  • calcium
  • fracture
  • insulin
  • meglitinides
  • muscle atrophy
  • muscle mass
  • osteoporosis
  • skeletal muscle
  • sulfonylureas
  • thiazolidinediones
  • type 1 diabetes
  • type 2 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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