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Once-a-Year Drug Helps Counter Steroid-Linked Bone Loss
Date:4/10/2009

Reclast injection beat daily pill at restoring bone for patients with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, study found

FRIDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with rheumatoid arthritis or asthma often need to take a bone-strengthening drug to counter the debilitating effects of their steroid medications.

Now, a new study finds that a once-yearly injection of a bisphosphonate bone-building drug, Reclast, may work better than a once-daily bisphosphonate pill for these patients.

Specifically, Reclast (zoledronic acid) was found to hold off and/or reverse bone loss among patients taking a glucocorticoid medication (including prednisolone or prednisone) for one of several inflammatory and immune-related diseases, including asthma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. And it did so more effectively than a daily dose of an oral bisphosphonate, Actonel (risedronate). Actonel is also available as a once-weekly and once-monthly pill.

The research team also found that both drugs appeared successful in lowering the risk of bone fracture that can result from glucocorticoid use.

The new study was funded by Novartis, which makes Reclast to help fight osteoporosis-linked bone loss in postmenopausal women. Novartis also makes another form of zoledronic acid, Zometa, for use by cancer patients.

"The important point is that people who take glucocorticoid steroids for asthma or arthritis are all in danger of getting osteoporosis or fractures as a consequence," said study lead author Dr. David M. Reid, professor of rheumatology and head of the division of applied medicine at University of Aberdeen, Scotland. "But now, we have found that there is a simple way of preventing that almost absolutely by applying a single infusion once a year of this safe and effective drug."

Reid and his colleagues reported their findings in the April 11 issue of The Lancet.

While bisphosphonate drugs can streng
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