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Friday, November 16, 2007

Forteo increases bone density in Steroid-Induced Osteoporosis

A new US study suggests that the osteoporosis drug Forteo (made by Eli Lilly) was more effective than Fosamax (made by Merck) at increasing bone density in arthritis patients with osteoporosis caused by taking corticosteroids such as prednisone.

The study is the work of Dr. Kenneth Saag, a professor in the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and colleagues, and is published in the 15th November issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study showed that patients taking Forteo (teriparatide), a parathyroid hormone, more than doubled their bone density and significantly reduced their risk of new spinal fractures compared to those who took Fosamax (alendronate).

A great number of arthritis and other patients use prednisone and other glucocorticoids to lessen inflammation and reduce swelling in tissue and joints. However there is a downside to the drugs, the possibility of bone loss and osteoporosis, a bone disease that results in bones becoming fragile and prone to fracture.

Saag said that patients with arthritis need to be on medication for their condition, but it is also important that they reduce the risk of hip fracture or spinal compression from taking their medication, thus "patients and their doctors need more bone-building options," he said.

"This study significantly improves our understanding of treatment options for secondary osteoporosis, which is osteoporosis caused by taking glucocorticoid drugs like prednisone," explained Saag.

Current international guidelines recommend the class of drugs that includes Fosamax, called bisphosphonates, for the treatment of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis, but according to Saag, many doctors are hoping Forteo is part of the "new wave" of drugs to treat the condition, and there was insufficient evidence of how it compared to the currently recommended ones.

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