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Health Team

Drug Could Strengthen Bones in Single Dose

Posted May 4, 2007 5:21 p.m. EDT
Updated May 4, 2007 5:57 p.m. EDT

More than 10 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, but an experimental drug has been shown to strengthen bones in just one dose.

A New England Journal of Medicine study found that the drug zolendronic acid, or Reclast, reduced the risk of spine fracture in post-menopausal women by 70 percent, hip fracture by 41percent and all other broken bones by 25 percent.

"It's very effective, at least as effective, if not more so, than any other drug on the market today," said Dr. Felicia Cosman, an osteoporosis specialist at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, N.Y.

Osteoporosis causes bones to lose density, making them brittle. Many drugs stop that deterioration, but they have to be taken regularly. Women often forget to take their medication or stop taking them because of side-effects.

The benefit of Reclast is that it's given only once a year, intravenously at the doctor's office, Cosman said.

"It takes 15 minutes, and then you're done," she said.

The drug is being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and, if approved, could be on the market by next year. According to doctors, side-effects appear to be minimal, with a small percentage of patients experiencing an irregular heartbeat.