Forteo Helps Drug-Induced Osteoporosis

Daily Shots of the Osteoporosis Drug May Trump Fosamax Pills in Some People With Steroid-Related Osteoporosis

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 14, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 14, 2007 -- A new study shows that in people at high risk for bone fracture due to steroid-related osteoporosis, the drug Forteo may trump Fosamax.

The study included 428 people with osteoporosis tied to long-term use of steroids such as prednisone to treat other conditions. Over time, some steroids can cause bone loss.

All of the patients took a pill and got a shot every day for 18 months.

Half of the patients got Fosamax and a shot containing no medicine. The other half of the group got an empty pill and a shot of Forteo.

The patients didn't know whether they were taking Forteo or Fosamax. All of them also took calcium and vitamin D.

Participants got bone density scans of their hip and lumbar spine periodically throughout the study.

After 18 months of treatment, patients in the Forteo group had a 7% increase in their lumbar spine bone mineral density and a 3.8% increase in their total hip bone mineral density.

People taking Fosamax showed smaller gains, with a 3.4% increase in lumbar spine bone mineral density and a 2.4% increase in their total hip bone mineral density.

Of the 11 people who suffered a spine fracture during the study, 10 were taking Fosamax and one was taking Forteo.

The researchers -- who included Kenneth Saag, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham -- report similar safety profiles for each drug.

But a journal editorial notes that the study is due to continue for another 18 months, and those results aren't in yet.

Editorialist Philip Sambrook, MD, of Australia's University of Sydney also notes that the study only included "the group most severely affected by [steroid]-induced bone loss and the most difficult to treat."

The study, published in tomorrow's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, was funded by Eli Lilly, which makes Forteo.

In the journal, Saag reports financial ties to Eli Lilly and to Merck, which makes Fosamax. Sambrook notes no potential conflicts of interest.

Merck spokeswoman Kim Hamilton tells WebMD that Merck doesn't have an immediate comment but looks forward to reviewing the study.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Saag, K. The New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 15, 2007; vol 357: pp 2028-2039. Sambrook, P. The New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 15, 2007; vol 357: pp 2084-2086. Kim Hamilton, spokeswoman, Merck. News release, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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