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Study Suggests Osteoporosis Drug Might Treat Loss of Bone in Jaw
Date:10/18/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- People suffering from a disfiguring loss of bone in the jaw may find help in the form of a long-used osteoporosis drug, two new studies suggest.

Besides being linked to chronic, severe gum disease, this type of bone loss has also been connected in rare cases to the use of bisphosphonates, a different class of osteoporosis drugs.

But the two papers in the Oct. 16 online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine report success with teriparatide (Forteo) in rebuilding bone.

One report describes the case of an 88-year-old woman who had been taking the bisphosphonate alendronate (Fosamax) since suffering a hip fracture 10 years earlier. She had also been taking the corticosteroid prednisone for two decades.

Experts have already noticed an uptick in the incidence of this rare but devastating condition in patients using bisphosphonates.

According to an editorial accompanying the study, this complication occurs in about 5 percent of cancer patients who are taking a high-dose bisphosphonate (Zometa or Aredia) to control or prevent spread of malignancy to the bone. It is much rarer in people who take a lower-dose bisphosphonate (such as Actonel, Boniva or Fosamax) for osteoporosis.

The 88-year-old woman described in the journal report had been experiencing pain in her jaw for a year and was subsequently diagnosed with osteonecrosis, a debilitating "death" of bone due to loss of blood flow.

After eight weeks of treatment with Forteo, though, the pain went away and the osteonecrosis resolved, reported the authors, from Austin Health in Melbourne, Australia.

The editorial pointed out, however, that Forteo should not be used in patients whose cancer has already spread to the bone, as it might prompt even more spread.

It's also possible that the corticosteroid therapy she was taking could have contributed
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