If You Have Osteoporosis, Science May Have Found a New Winning Treatment

For those with severe osteoporosis, a new treatment could provide much-needed protection for their bones.

osteoporosisMinerva Studio/ShutterstockTreatment options for the 10 million Americans—mostly women—with osteoporosis leave a lot to be desired. This silent but deadly bone-thinning condition can be brought on by even harmless-seeming habits like these. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), those with severe bone loss have trouble preventing bone fracture and regaining bone strength even while taking medication. However, the study suggests that a new medication could solve this problem by significantly boosting bone density.

Currently, doctors typically prescribe the drug alendronate for women with severe osteoporosis. While alendronate can increase bone density and cut fracture risk by nearly 50 percent, the risk of breaking a bone is still unacceptably high—which is why researchers at the Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy decided to look at the possible benefits of a medication called romosozumab. The drug targets a substance in bones that can interfere or slow down the formation of new bone. For the study, researchers included 4,093 women—average age of 74—who had osteoporosis and had suffered a bone fracture in the past. The volunteers took either a 12-month supply of alendronate or romosozumab.

At the conclusion of the study, those who took romosozumab showed a 48 percent lower risk for vertebral fractures (the spine is a common site for osteoporotic fractures) compared to participants who were taking alendronate. The risk for any type of clinical fracture was 27 percent lower in the romosozumab participants.

There were some worrisome side effects in both groups—but cardiovascular issues, including heart attacks and strokes were higher in romosozumab patients—2.5 percent—as opposed to 1.9 percent of patients who were on alendronate. This was a surprise, say the researchers, since previous research on romosozumab hadn’t detected any heart risk. Here are some other simple things you can do daily to boost your bone density.

As promising as the romosozumab tablets appear to be, says study author Mattias Lorentzon, more research is needed. Nonetheless he is hopeful the drug could work. “With romosozumab in the treatment arsenal, we could prevent many fractures among the high-risk patients,” Lorentzon said.

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