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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Once-a-month osteoporosis tablet
Image of bones
Osteoporosis can lead to fractures
People with the bone disease osteoporosis will now be able to take a monthly rather than daily or weekly tablet for their condition.

The drug works in the same way as other available bisphosphonates - helping the body to rebuild bone loss.

Doctors hope GlaxoSmithKline's Bonviva will mean more patients keep taking their long term medication.

Research suggests half of patients on weekly bisphosphonates stop taking the pills by the end of the first year.

This will offer more choice to people about when to take their tablets
A spokeswoman for the National Osteoporosis Society

Many do not continue with treatment because they do not have symptoms for a number of years and they may not feel the beneficial effect that the treatment is having on their bones.

Osteoporosis affects an estimated three million people and is responsible for 230,000 breaks per year in the UK.

Every three minutes someone has a fracture due to osteoporosis.

Women are particularly at risk because they have smaller more fragile bones to start off with.

This is complicated by the menopause during which the body stops producing oestrogen - a hormone essential for good bone health.

And because of the natural ageing process, the risk increases with age.

70,000 hip fractures
50,000 wrist fractures
120,000 spinal fractures

Currently, there is no cure for osteoporosis, but there are a number of treatments available which aim to preserve bone mass and prevent fractures.

These include bisphosphonates, calcium and vitamin D supplements, hormone replacement therapy, selective oestrogen receptor modulators , strontium ranelate and teriparatide/parathyroid hormone.

Bisphosphonates have to be taken on an empty stomach and the individual is advised to remain upright and avoid food immediately after taking the tablet.


Some argue that other preparations, such as daily strontium ranelate, which increases the formation of healthy new bone while simultaneously decreasing bone destruction, are more convenient to take.

They argue that it might be easier to forget to take a monthly tablet.

However, GSK believes its new once-monthly preparation will be more convenient for patients.

Dr Louise Dolan, consultant rheumatologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London, said: "A once a month treatment option should encourage women to take their treatment regularly, reducing the risk of fracture and the devastating impact this can have on their lives.

"I'm sure patients will appreciate fewer tablets."

A spokeswoman for the National Osteoporosis Society said: "This will offer more choice to people about when to take their tablets, enabling them to choose a monthly tablet rather than a daily or weekly tablet, which may fit into their lives better."

Dr Richard Keen of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London said people on osteoporosis treatment should not overlook the importance of ensuring that they were also getting enough vitamin D, which is important for bone health.

24 Aug 99 |  Medical notes


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