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Osteoporosis treatment successful in frail, functionally impaired women

June 6, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Zoledronic acid can preserve bone density and improve skeletal integrity in women who take it, according to new research. The treatment previously has been shown to be successful against bone loss in older adults, but pivotal trials typically have excluded women who are frail and whose functioning is impaired.

The results are important, researchers say, in part because almost 85 percent of older adults living in long-term care (LTC) settings have osteoporosis.

Susan Greenspan, MD, a professor of medicine and director of the Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment Center at the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues conducted a study of 181 women aged an average of 85 years and living in LTC settings. Women whose cognition was impaired, as well as those who already had developed osteoporosis or had a fracture, were included in the trial if they had not already taken anti-resorbitive agents such as zoledronic.

Half of the study participants received a formulation of zoledronic that lasts for two years. The other half got a placebo. Throughout the trial, all participants received the same daily calcium and vitamin D supplements. After the first and second year of the study, those who had been taking zoledronic had higher bone mineral density in their hips, spine and femoral necks (the “ball-and-socket-like” part of the hip) than those who had received the placebo.

“This trial of a single dose of zoledronic acid for osteoporosis in cognitively impaired, frail osteoporotic women is the first to demonstrate that it is safe and effective in preserving and improving skeletal integrity over two years,” Greenspan says. “Future studies are needed to examine fracture reduction.”

Greenspan presented the results of the study at the recent annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society.

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