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Once-a-Year Treatment for Osteoporosis

There is exciting news in the fight against osteoporosis. It's a treatment you only have to take once a year!

WABC—May 2, 2007

It's a once-a-year medication to keep your bones strong.

The medication is on the market already, but it is not approved for osteoporosis yet. It's used for other diseases. Still, some doctors are already prescribing the medication for their patients and a new study is showing the benefits.

Manhattan resident Bobbi Maxman is feeling great now, after taking an intravenous infusion of a medication called zoledronic acid. Bobbi has osteoporosis and the pill medicines have not worked for her.

"It was giving me fierce heartburn," she said. "I just was afraid to go to sleep because it would wake me up several times during the night."

Many patients like Bobbi stop taking their osteoporosis medications because they can't tolerate them. But the disease can increase their risk of breaking a hip or a bone.

Which is why Bobbi's doctor put her on a once-a-year intravenous drug that builds up bone, according to the study. The IV drug is zoledronic acid, also called zometa and reclast.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports on the effects of zoledronic acid in nearly 4,000 patients, compared to an equal number on placebo.

"Patients who received the drug had a dramatic decrease in both vertebral fractures, which are the fractures in the back, as well as hip fractures," said Linda Russell, M.D., of Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, who is Maxman’s doctor.

For example, of the more than 7,000 patients in the study, either on placebo or on the drug, 11 percent had a spinal fracture during the three years they were followed. Doctors say 310 were in the placebo group, compared to only 92 who were on zoledronic acid.

That's a 70 percent decrease in spinal fractures for those on the drug. Hip fractures were decreased by 41 percent.

"This is very important, because if you have a fracture, it greatly affects the quality of your life," Dr. Russell said.

There were an increased number of serious, but non-fatal, heart rhythm problems seen in the zoledronic acid patients. The safety data from ongoing trials of the drug are anxiously awaited, according to an editorial in the journal.


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