Bone drug reduces deaths in elderly
ATLANTA – For the first time, an osteoporosis drug has reduced deaths and prevented new fractures in elderly patients with broken hips, according to new research.
Some experts called the drop in deaths “striking” but said other drugs could have a similar effect.
In the study, there were 28 percent fewer deaths and 35 percent fewer fractures in the group that got a once-a-year infusion of the bone drug Reclast compared with those who got a dummy treatment.
No other osteoporosis drug study published in at least 15 years has shown such a pronounced reduction in deaths, said Dr. Kenneth Lyles of Duke University Medical Center, the lead author.
The study was released online Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with a presentation at a medical conference in Hawaii. It will be published in a later edition of the journal.
The research was funded by Novartis, which makes Reclast, and Lyles has two patent applications for the use of the drug. Under the name Zometa, the drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cancer patients in 2002.
It was approved for post-menopausal osteoporosis last month under the name Reclast.
More than 300,000 hip fractures occur in the United States each year. Often they trigger a downward spiral – roughly one in five elderly victims dies within a year of breaking a hip.
Generally, doctors tell hip-fracture patients to take Fosamax and other bisphosphonates, a class of osteoporosis drugs that stops bone breakdown. But many patients do not take the pills because they cause heartburn and other symptoms.
They also are a hassle for elderly patients, who must take it on an empty stomach in the morning, and wait a half hour before eating.