Alendronate has been evaluated in four studies of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. In these studies, the drug reduced the risk of vertebral fractures (broken spinal bones) by 48 percent. In women who already had a vertebral fracture before starting the drug, alendronate reduced the risk of a broken hip or wrist by about 50 percent. The studies also showed that the drug increased the bone mineral density (a measure of the strength of bones) in the spine and hip. Interestingly, women taking alendronate lost less height, compared with women not taking it.
Alendronate can also be used to prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women with risk factors for the disease. In studies, women taking the drug showed increased bone mineral density, while those not taking it actually experienced bone loss.
Alendronate and Men
Studies have shown that alendronate can help increase bone mineral density in men with osteoporosis and can help prevent the loss of height due to the disease. Studies have not shown that the drug prevents broken bones in men. However, this is most likely due to the small number of men in alendronate studies (since studies need many people in order to show any changes in the frequency of broken bones).
Alendronate and Steroids
Osteoporosis is one of the side effects of long-term use of steroids, such as prednisone. Studies have shown that alendronate can treat osteoporosis in people who take steroids. In these studies, people taking the drug had increased bone mineral density, compared to people not taking it.
Alendronate and Paget's Disease
One way to assess the severity of Paget's disease is by measuring the level of alkaline phosphate in the blood. In studies, alendronate was shown to decrease alkaline phosphate levels, which indicates that it helps to improve Paget's disease. Studies compared alendronate with Didronel® (etidronate), a similar medication used to treat Paget's disease. Up to 85 percent of people taking alendronate achieved normal alkaline phosphate levels or significantly reduced levels, compared to just 30 percent of those taking Didronel.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed February 7, 2008.
Briggs GG, Freeman RK, Yaffe SJ. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. 7th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2005.
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