Yearly infusions of the bone-strengthening agent zoledronic acid in elderly people who have suffered a hip fracture reduced deaths by 28 percent and new fractures by 35 percent over two years - the first time any treatment has been shown to reduce mortality in such patients.
Researchers reported in May that the drug, sold under the brand name Reclast by Novartis, significantly reduced the incidence of fractures in patients with osteoporosis. But the new trial is the first to study people who have already suffered a fracture, said Dr. Dennis Black of the University of California San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.
The results were "powerful and compelling," wrote pharmacologists Karim Anton Calis and Frank Pucino of the National Institutes of Health in an editorial to accompany the paper in the Nov. 1 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
The report was published online yesterday.
About 300,000 Americans are hospitalized yearly with hip fractures. As many as 25 percent of the victims die within the first year after their injury, the survivors' risk of subsequent fractures is as much as 10 times higher than normal, and the majority of the victims remain confined to nursing homes for the rest of their lives.
The study involved 2,127 men and women - mostly women - with a mean age of 74 who had suffered a hip fracture without other major trauma.
Thomas H. Maugh II writes for the Los Angeles Times.