Walking, carrying groceries, lifting a grandchild – activities with which healthy individuals associate little risk. On a day-to-day basis, one would have no fear performing the above, but for someone with osteoporosis, a simple misstep could mean months of recovery.
Osteoporosis, literally translating to “porous bone,” is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle, effectively increasing their risk of breaking. With osteoporosis, the loss of bone occurs silently and progressively – often there are no symptoms until the first devastating fracture. After peak bone density in the early 20s, bone cells dissolve and deposit within the body in a process known as remodeling. For those with osteoporosis, bone loss outpaces the growth of new bone, and suddenly both the density and quality of bone are reduced. With more than 3 million US cases per year, the disease is astonishingly common and has likely affected you, or someone you know and love. Applicable to both men and women, effect on daily function is of grave concern.
Treatment for osteoporosis includes medications, healthy diet, and weight-bearing exercise to help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones. Since 1995, drug therapy for the condition was limited to antiresorptive agents – medications to slow down bone loss. In 2002, anabolic medications became popular – acting to increase bone formation by stimulating the cells that build bone. The stimulation seen with these anabolic medications, however, increased bone resorption as well – mitigating some of their reinforcement effect. But a new drug is remedying this catch 22.
The new innovation is a unique treatment in that it works in more ways than one. Though anabolic by definition, romosozumab displays antiresorptive qualities as well. The drug’s simultaneous ability to slow down bone loss while building new bone results in more bone building than any previous osteoporosis drug and helps reduce the risk of additional fractures which are highly likely within one year of prior incidence. Common with osteoporosis is the occurrence of spinal fracture. In an active comparative study of women with post-menopausal osteoporosis receiving the new drug or its antiresorptive predecessor, risk of spine and hip fracture in the new drug cohort was reduced by 50 and 38 percent respectively. Significant increases in bone mineral density have also been observed with the regimen.
The treatment is given in an office by a healthcare provider and consists of two shots given under the skin every month for a year. FDA approved in April 2019, the drug is fresh on the market and ready to help build strong, empowered, able-bodied patients.