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New Drug Fights Medication-Linked Bone Loss
Date:11/14/2007

Teriparatide may help asthma patients avoid fracture, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A new drug has proven superior to standard therapy at slowing bone loss caused by asthma treatment, researchers say.

Glucocorticoid medicines such as prednisone are often given to treat asthma, autoimmune disorders, skin allergies and other conditions, researchers note. But the drugs can also cause osteoporosis.

The new drug, an anabolic steroid called teriparatide, probably will be the preferable treatment "for patients who have particularly bad disease to start with or are on glucocorticoids for a long time," said Dr. Kenneth G. Saag, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The study, which was funded by teriparatide's maker, Eli Lilly & Co., is published in the Nov. 15 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

One million Americans are taking glucocorticoids for one condition or another, Saag said, and many are at higher risk of fractures, because the medications weaken their bones. Current treatment for medication-linked osteoporosis centers on use of bisphosphonates, medications designed to prevent bone breakdown.

The 18-month trial included 428 men and women with drug-caused osteoporosis who had been taking glucocorticoids for at least three months. Half were assigned to take alendronate, a bisphosphonate, while the other half took teriparatide.

After three months, the increase in bone density at the lumbar (lower) spine was double for those taking teriparatide -- an average 7.2 percent rise versus 3.4 percent in the alendronate group. The teriparatide group also experienced fewer fractures of the vertebral bones compared with those on the bisphosphonate.

But teriparatide's much higher cost will limit its use, Saag said. "Use of therapy is driven by insurance as well as by appropriate bone density and frac
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