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Osteoporosis: 5 Drugs That Can Challenge Bone Loss


Osteoporosis PatientOsteoporosis specialists are researching new ways to curb the bone loss that affects many women and men as they age.

In osteoporosis, the bones lose their structural integrity. They grow fragile and fracture easily. The spine often curves forward into what is commonly called a dowager’s hump.

A matter of math

“The fundamental cause of osteoporosis is bone breakdown that exceeds bone formation,” explains Chad Deal, MD, Director of the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases.

The body is continually adding bone tissue and losing it. Up until about age 30, we add more bone than we lose. After about age 35, we start to lose more bone than we add. This process gathers momentum as we age, and accelerates at the start of menopause.

Dietary supplements, weight-bearing exercise such as walking, and hormone therapy help to prevent osteoporosis when bone density declines.


The ‘gold standard’

A class of drugs called bisphosphonates is the gold standard treatment for low bone density– so far. Bisphosphonates slow the body’s breakdown of bone tissue. They trigger natural cell death among bone tissue-dissolving cells — which is good. But they also cause the cells that build bone tissue to slow down or stop adding new tissue — which is bad.

So researchers have been hard at work coming up with new osteoporosis drugs that can stop bone loss without disrupting the natural growth of new bone. Dr. Deal, Head of the Center for Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Diseases, keeps a close eye on these emerging drug therapies.

Discover five promising new approaches to treating osteoporosis.