A recent study has found that a new, injectable drug to treat osteoporosis-denosumab-boosts bone mineral density and decreases the rate of bone loss in postmenopausal women.

The Study

This study looked at 412 postmenopausal women who had low bone mineral density. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups-one group received denosumab every three months; the second group got denosumab every six months; another group took open-label oral alendronate (Fosamax) once a week; and the final group received a placebo.

At the end of 12 months, the women who were taking denosumab had an increase in bone mineral density at the lumbar spine (lower back) of 3% to 6.7%, compared with a 4.6% increase in bone mineral density for those taking Fosamax, and a loss of 0.8% bone mineral density for those taking a placebo.

At the hip, women taking denosumab experienced a gain of 1.9% to 3.6% bone mineral density, versus a 2.1% increase for those who were taking Fosamax and a loss of 0.6% for those taking a placebo.

At the wrist, women taking denosumab experienced an increase of 0.4% to 1.3% in bone mineral density, versus declines of 0.5% and 2% for those on Fosamax and for those on a placebo, respectively.

Three days after denosumab was administered, researchers say there were reductions in blood levels of C-telopeptide, indicating less bone destruction.


In conclusion, the researchers report that denosumab, given at three- or six-month intervals, resulted in an increase in bone mineral density, similar to that achieved using Fosamax, and a decrease in the rate of bone destruction.

Denosumab, which only needs to be administered a few times a year, is injected under the skin, most likely eliminating any gastrointestinal upset, a side effect of the currently prescribed osteoporosis medications known as bisphosphonates, says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, former chief of women's cardiac care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of The Women's Healthy Heart Program.


According to the study authors, one of the problems with the current treatments for osteoporosis is a lack of adherence. For whatever reason, many patients stop taking medications that are designed to add calcium and other strengthening substances to their bones. One group of researchers reported that fewer than 25% of women consistently took their medication during the course of one year.

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