Once-Yearly Drug Prevents Fractures
Reclast for Osteoporosis: One 15-Minute Infusion per Year
WebMD News Archive
May 2, 2007 - With one 15-minute infusion a year, a bone-loss drug called
Reclast cuts risk of vertebral fractures by 70% and hip fractures by 41% over
The finding comes from a clinical trial in which nearly 4,000 postmenopausal
women got Reclast and about the same number got an inactive placebo. At the
start of the study, the women's average age was 73.
A major problem with the most commonly prescribed class of osteoporosis
drugs -- bisphosphonates -- is that they aren't easy to take the right way.
They have to be taken first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, 30
minutes before eating anything -- and you have to remain standing or sitting
upright during this half-hour fast.
That's why only 30% of people are still taking their osteoporosis drugs
after a year, says study leader Dennis M. Black, PhD, of the University of
California, San Francisco.
"And who knows how many of that 30% are actually taking it right,"
Black tells WebMD. "So in terms of clinical effect, even if our study shows
Reclast is just the same as some other osteoporosis drugs, the real clinical
effect will be better."
The study did not actually compare Reclast to other osteoporosis drugs,
notes study investigator and osteoporosis specialist Felicia Cosman, MD, of
Helen Hayes Hospital and Columbia University. Cosman also serves as clinical
director for the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
"The results from this placebo-controlled trial really show that Reclast
is at least as effective vs. fractures -- if not more effective -- than
anything else in this drug class we currently have on the market," Cosman
Reclast doesn't totally prevent fractures. Over three years, 3.3% of women
who took the drug had vertebral fractures and 1.4% had hip fractures. But that
was far better than the 10.9% rate of vertebral fractures and the 2.5% rate of
hip fractures in the placebo group.
"We want to stress that in between these infusions, women still need to
take their calcium and vitamin D and exercise and use all the lifestyle
measures that should be done to reduce bone loss. This would not take the place
of that," Cosman warns.
Women tolerated the annual 15-minute infusions very well. After the
infusion, about 14% of patients had some symptoms of what doctors call an acute
phase reaction. They felt as though they had a mild viral infection, with
low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, and/or headache. In no case did this
last longer than three days, Cosman says.
Women who took Reclast also had a significantly higher rate of serious
atrial fibrillation -- a dangerous, abnormal heart rhythm. This happened to 50
of the 3,889 women who received the drug.