Once a year treatment 'slashes fracture risk'New therapy to tackle osteoporosis

03 May 2007

A once-yearly treatment for the fragile bone disease osteoporosis has been found to significantly reduce the risk of life-threatening fractures.

Trials of the 15-minute drug treatment were found to cut the risk of hip fractures by more than 40 per cent, scientists said.

Osteoporosis affects one in two women and one in five men in the UK over the age of 50 and can lead to painful and debilitating broken bones in the hips, spine and wrists.

Researchers behind the trial said that a single infusion of zoledronic acid once a year meant that women could be protected against the disease without having to take regular medication.

Annual infusion

The drug was tested over three years on nearly 8,000 women, who were given annual infusions or a placebo.

Results of the trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a 70 per cent reduction in fractures of the vertebrae of the spine and a 41 per cent reduction in hip fractures.

About 14,000 people die in the UK each year following a hip fracture, the National Osteoporosis Society said.

Regular pills

Drugs for the disease are normally given as pills that are taken daily or weekly. They are effective but do not always achieve their full potential because women stop taking them.

Professor Dennis Black, from the University of California, who led the study, concluded: 'A regimen of infusions once a year appears to ensure that patients will have a full treatment effect for at least 12 months.

'In contrast, many patients who receive prescriptions for oral bisphosphonates stop treatment, and most appear to be taking less than 80 per cent of their prescribed pills by 12 months.'

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