Once a year osteoporosis jab reduces fractures and saves lives

A once a year injection of an osteoporosis drug has been found to reduce the number of new hip fractures for older people and also saves lives.

Experts say that 36 percent of patients who suffer a hip fracture die within two years of the incident and such individuals are also five to 10 times more likely to suffer another hip fracture.

A new study has found that when such patients are given the osteoporosis drug zoledronic acid (Reclast) their risk of suffering another hip fracture is reduced.

In a study funded by the drug company Novartis which makes Reclast, involved 1,065 participants who were given the once-a-year injections, it was found that compared with another 1,062 participants who given a placebo, they were 35% less likely to have a recurrent fracture.

Study author Dr. Kenneth W. Lyles a professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. says this is the first trial to show an improvement in mortality for the drug.

Reclast was given approval in August by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

Osteoporosis is a disease which mainly affects women in their postmenopausal years; the disease causes the bones to thin out and become more fragile, making them break more easily; such fractures often result in severe disability and sometimes even death.

Reclast is a bisphosphonate and belongs to the same class of drugs as Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva which are commonly used to treat osteoporosis; they work by slowing down the body's natural reabsorption of bone.

The study participants were followed for an average of almost two years and it was found that almost 14 percent of those not taking Reclast suffered a new fracture, compared with only 8.6 percent of those taking the drug.

It was also found that 13.3 percent of patients not taking Reclast died, compared to 9.6 percent of those taking the drug; in fact patients taking Reclast were 28 percent less likely to die and 35 percent less likely to have another fracture than those on placebo, and their bone mineral density also improved.

The researchers say the decline in mortality was due at least in part to the decline in fractures.

Dr. Lyles says an annual infusion of zoledronic acid within 90 days after the repair of a low-trauma hip fracture reduces the rate of new fractures and improves survival.

Patients taking Reclast are advised to also take vitamin D and calcium and some can expect to experience flu-like symptoms which can be eased with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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