Osteoporosis Drug Reclast Gives Frail Women Denser Hips And Spines

A single dosage of an osteoporosis drug may be sufficient to cure even the frailest patient.

A recent study discovered that Reclast, a known brand name of Zoledronic acid, can possibly enhance bone mineral density (BMD) of the elderly residing in long-term care agencies. In fact, one single dose can be effective as long as two years.

Reclast has been affirmed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cure postmenopausal ladies who are suffering from osteoporosis, for around eight years.

A progressive bone disease, osteoporosis, has been characterized by a decrease in bone density which has led to an increased risk of fracture. While it has an effect on both males and females, elder women are at a very high risk especially those who have experienced menopause, as indicated by National Osteoporosis Foundation. Past researches have shown that Zoledronic acid has been successful in reinforcing bones and securing against bone fractures.

Dr. Susan L. Greenspan, a medical doctor from the Geriatric Medicine Division at University of Pittsburgh, led the clinical trial to determine the efficacy and safety of Zoledronic acid.

"We found that a single infusion of Zoledronic acid in frail, cognitively challenged, less mobile elderly women improved bone density and reduced bone turnover [the natural replenishing of old bone with new bone] for two years," Greenspan and her group noted. "This suggests that even a very frail cohort may benefit. However, prior to changing practice, larger trials are needed to determine whether improvement in these surrogate measures will translate into fracture reduction for vulnerable elderly persons."

In two years, Dr. Greenspan and her associates tracked 181 elder women who were enduring osteoporosis. These ladies were recorded as 65 years of age or above and were residents in a nursing facility or home health aide agency. They included ladies with mental impairment, stationary in nature and numerous medicinal conditions.

Dr. Greenspan and the team measured spine and hip BMD of the patients during the first and second year. BMD informs how much calcium and other forms of minerals are concentrated in a bone area. The group also tracked falls and similar accidents.

The average spine BMD was enhanced more for patients who had received the medication.

However, no significant variations in the figure in terms of heart disorders, bone fractures or deaths, were found between those who have taken the medicine versus those who have not, according to Dr. Greenspan and her team.

Dr. Greenspan hopes that the U.S. National Institutes of Health will fund a bigger study to test if treatment with Reclast (Zoledronic acid) will reduce the risk of fractures.

If a larger trial found that treatment with Reclast did reduce fractures, "it would require rethinking the approach to fracture prevention in this large and growing population, especially since these are the individuals who also are at the highest risk of both fracture and its consequences," Dr. Greenspan explained.

This research was funded by National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, Clinical Translational Science Institute, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the National Center for Research Resources. Dr. Greenspan accepted monetary grants from Eli Lilly and Amgen. Other authors had financial support from Sanofi, Merck and Ortho Biotech.

The editorial and study were published online last April 13 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Photo: Tim Samoff | Flickr