Drug curbs bone loss after spinal cord injury

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The bone drug Fosamax (also called alendronate) given soon after spinal cord injury prevents bone loss associated with the injury, a study suggests.

People who’ve suffered spinal cord injury are at risk for rapid bone loss occurring below the level of the injury due to an increase in the harmful process of bone resorption as well as impaired bone formation, thereby predisposing them to osteoporosis and bone fractures.

In their study, Dr. Nigel L. Gilchrist, of The Princess Margaret Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand, and colleagues randomly assigned 31 spinal cord injury patients to Fosamax (70 milligrams per week) or placebo, within 10 days of injury, for 12 months.

The team measured bone mineral density (BMD) at various sites including the lumbar spine, hip, femoral neck (the area where thigh bone meets the hip) and total body at the start of treatment and at 3, 6, 12, and 18 months.

The researchers observed significant changes favoring the Fosamax group for five of six total body BMD measurements across 18 months.

In this study, write the authors, “preservation of BMD with alendronate was clearly demonstrated.”

Whether such treatment prevents lower limb fractures in the longer term “remains to be investigated,” they note.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, April 2007.