Drug Treatment Successful for Male Osteoporosis

08/31/00    Portland, Ore.

OHSU-Led Study Shows Bone Density Increases in Men on Alendronate.

A drug used for the treatment of osteoporosis in women also is effective in treating the bone degenerative disease in men, according to a study published Aug. 31 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Osteoporosis reduces bone density, making bones porous and brittle. The greatest harm comes when victims suffer fractures, particularly of the back and hip. Although widely known as a disease that affects women, osteoporosis also is rapidly becoming a significant health problem in men, especially as their average life span increases. Currently men suffer about 25 percent to 30 percent of all osteoporotic hip fractures.

"This is the first convincing trial that any therapy is effective for increasing bone density mass and preventing fractures in men with osteoporosis," said Eric Orwoll, M.D., professor of medicine, and head of the Bone and Mineral Clinic at Oregon Health Sciences University. Orwoll is the lead author on the two-year study, which involved the testing of 241 men at 12 sites around the world.

Men who were given the drug alendronate had on average a 7-percent increase in spine bone mineral density, while their counterparts who received a placebo showed little gain. In addition, use of the drug prevented height loss, which is a marker of possible vertebral spine fractures due to osteoporosis.

Alendronate, also marketed as Fosomax®, is a potent biophosphate that inhibits bone resorption. In postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, alendronate has been shown to significantly increase bone density. Alendronate has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in women and similar approval for use in men is pending. However, doctors now may begin to prescribe the drug for men with the disease due to this study's findings. Orwoll also is the lead investigator of a comprehensive study on the causes and results of osteoporosis in men. OHSU currently is recruiting patients for that study. For information, call 503 494-6529 or 877 780-3107.