Harvard Women's Health Watch

IV osteoporosis drug builds bone in older women who can't take the oral version

A study published online April 13, 2015, in JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that a single infusion of the bisphosphonate drug zoledronate (Reclast) can be used to increase bone density in women who can't take oral versions of bisphosphonates. Taking an oral bisphosphonate like alendronate (Fosamax) is effective in building bone for women with osteoporosis, but it requires a commitment—taking the drug on an empty stomach and remaining upright for 30 minutes afterward. Because this may not be practical for women in assisted living facilities, they often aren't given bone-building drugs, even though their risk of hip fracture is eight to nine times that of women living at home.

The researchers studied 181 women with osteoporosis residing in assisted living facilities. The average age was 85. The women were randomly assigned to one of two treatments—1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800 IU of vitamin D daily as supplements plus a single intravenous infusion of zoledronate or the same daily doses of the supplements alone.

After two years, the women who had received zoledronate had significantly greater bone density at the hip and spine than the women who didn't get the drug. However, there was no significant difference in fractures or deaths between the two groups.

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