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Modern osteoporosis drugs can help stop the breakdown of bone and even building better bones that was already lost. These pharmaceuticals prevent and treat bone loss at its root.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a health threat for over 44 million Americans and women make up 80% of those affected.
Building Better Bones, The Latest Osteoporosis Drugs for the Treatment of Bone Loss
Recently, companies have developed pharmaceutical osteoporosis drugs that actually reverse the damage to bones, building and rebuilding bone instead of just slowing loss. Here are some of the latest ways medical research is helping prevent and cure osteoporosis.
Bone Retaining Osteoporosis Drugs
Medicines that help keep bones healthy, also called antiresorptive because they prevent the body from reabsorbing crucial bone components, are the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis treatment. They work by preventing osteoclasts, cells that break down bone, from working, thereby inhibiting bone degradation.
Most drugs that fall into this category are bisphosphonates and they include:
- Alendronate (Fosamax)- taken in oral pill form
- Ibandronate (Boniva and Boniva IV) – taken in oral pill form or as an injection every three months
- Risedronate (Actonel)- taken in oral pill form
- Reclast (Zoledronic Acid) – given as a once-a-year injection
There is some concern that bisphosphonates may cause osteonecrosis, the loss of bone structure in the jaw, in a small minority of patients who take it. Patients taking this kind of medication should tell their dentists to watch for signs of this possibility.
Other versions of pharmaceuticals that keep bones from breaking down are synthetic hormones, including:
Calcitonin (Miacalcin) is a synthetic hormone-mimicking one naturally produced in the thyroid that helps prevent bone breakdown. It can be given as an injection or a nasal spray
Raloxifene (Evista) is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), a compound that affects the receptors for estrogen and helps stop the bone destruction.
Sometimes, Estrogen is given as part of a hormone replacement therapy and there are many brands that make different versions of synthetic estrogen. Estrogen can help prevent the breakdown of bone by osteoclasts. It is given as a daily pill or through a skin patch.
Bone Building Osteoporosis Drugs
The newest class of osteoporosis medicines are PTH (parathyroid hormone) drugs. These kinds of pharmaceuticals actually build bone by stimulating the osteoblasts, the bone-building cells in the body.
Teriparatide – PTH1-34 (Forteo) is the only currently FDA-approved bone builder. It is taken as a daily injection for up to two years. It is the most effective of osteoporosis drugs, with one recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham showing that the bone-building effects of PTH actually enhances the body’s own ability to rebuild bone, allowing osteoblasts to continue working after the treatment is finished.
A new version of PTH drugs, PTH1-84, is currently under consideration for approval by the FDA.
Combining Bone Treatments Using Multiple Osteoporosis Medicines
One recent study by Dr. Dennis Black at UCFS and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that postmenopausal women who tried an osteoporosis treatment regimen taking bone-building drugs for one year then taking bone-retaining treatment for the next year had a better bone strength and density than people who only tried one type of treatment. Combination therapies using multiple osteoporosis drugs seem to be the next step in the effective management of osteoporosis.
Further combining these kinds of osteoporosis medicines with methods that help protect and build bone density naturally may further increase the effects of osteoporosis drugs and help weak bones on the path to recovery.