Osteoporosis is the result of excessive bone loss. It generally strikes women after menopause, especially those with a family history, smokers, and women with diets low in calcium. There are drugs approved to stop the breakdown, but a new drug may take treatment one-step further.
Carole Mason has always enjoyed her milk. She says, "Milk is my favorite beverage. If I am anywhere, in a restaurant or whatever, I'll order milk."
And her diet is high in calcium. "Yogurt, cheese vegetables. I've always eaten a lot of tuna, salmon," she says.
Calcium is especially important for Mason now. She has early stage osteoporosis.
Around 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Another 34 million are at increased risk.
Endocrinologist Diane Biskobing, M.D., says, "There's a constant bone loss and bone formation and it's usually balanced. Somebody gets osteoporosis when the bone loss or bone resorption becomes excessive."
Traditional osteoporosis medications stop bone breakdown. Now, researchers say they may have a better treatment.
"This drug stimulates the cell that forms new bone. So it's actually causing these cells to lay down new bone," says Dr. Biskobing.
The drug is parathyroid hormone. Early studies show it increases bone density 10 percent to 14 percent. Without treatment, menopausal women can lose 2 percent of their bone density per year.
"This would give us an option to use in people with very severe osteoporosis and a new option in people who've fractured despite being on the standard therapies," says Dr. Biskobing, of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
For this woman on the go, the treatment could offer help where a calcium-rich lifestyle has come up short. Dr. Biskobing says as the baby boomer population ages, a new treatment will become increasingly necessary as more people are at risk for osteoporosis and fractures.