Brittle bones? grow new ones!

AN osteoporosis drug which has been shown to form new bone is now available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Forteo (teriparatide), a medication developed using DNA technology, is now listed under the PBS for people living with severe, established osteoporosis - those most likely to suffer broken bones.

It is available to patients with a very high risk of fracture, who also meet a number of other clinical measures. This drug was previously very expensive, around $15,000 for 18 months treatment.

Professor Peter Ebeling, the head of Endocrinology at the Department of Medicine in Melbourne's Western Hospital, said Forteo was an anabolic agent which activated bone growth cells known as osteoblasts, working from within to build and strengthen bones.

It is given as a daily injection under the skin; must be prescribed by a specialist and can be used for a maximum lifetime treatment period of 18 months.

Forteo includes a black box warning for osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.

It has been shown to cause an increase in the incidence of osteosarcoma in both male and female rats at doses from three to 60 times the human dose.

Osteoporosis affects many elderly Coffs Coast residents and with an ageing population, is expected to become increasingly prevalent.

Often thought of as a condition of old women, hence the term' dowager's hump' for a spine affected by osteoporosis, it is also becoming more common in men

Most fractures occur in the wrist, hip and spine, with hip fractures especially associated with reduced life expectancy and quality of life.

Exercise and a good diet with adequate calcium and other minerals can help protect against osteoporosis in later life.

WHAT IT MEANS

• Osteoporosis literally means 'porous bones'. It is a condition in which the bones become fragile and brittle, leading to a higher risk of fractures and occurs when bones lose minerals like calcium more quickly than the body can replace them.

• An Australian is admitted to hospital with an osteoporotic fracture every six minutes. One in two women and one in four men aged more than 60 will suffer such a fracture.



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