This May Lower Fracture Odds in Older Women
By Amy Norton
THURSDAY, Aug. 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Older women with osteoporosis could get lasting benefits from a few years on growth hormone, a new, small trial suggests.
Researchers found that when women with the bone-thinning disease took growth hormone for three years, their fracture risk was still reduced seven years later. Before entering the study, 56 percent of the women had suffered a bone break; over the 10-year study period, 28 percent sustained a fracture.
But the study, reported online Aug. 27 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism, only involved 55 women who used growth hormone.
And experts said it is unlikely to become an approved treatment for osteoporosis any time soon.
Still, the results are “pretty exciting,” since they show a sustained effect on women’s fracture risk, said Dr. Jerome Tolbert, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City.
“Osteoporosis is a serious problem, and we need to do a better job of preventing and treating it,” said Tolbert, who was not involved in the study.
However, more research is needed before growth hormone could become a treatment option. “Do we need more studies to confirm the safety and effectiveness? Yes, we do,” Tolbert said.
In the United States, about 52 million people have low bone mass or full-blown osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. And among women older than 50, roughly half will suffer a fracture due to thinning bones.
There are a number of bone-protecting medications that can cut that fracture risk, including bisphosphonates such as Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax, plus generics; the injection drugs denosumab (Prolia) and teriparatide (Forteo); and raloxifene (Evista), a pill that has estrogen-like effects on bones.
A recent review found that, overall, the drugs reduce the risk of spine fractures by 40 percent to 60 percent. They also curb the risk of other bone breaks, including hip fractures, by 20 percent to 40 percent.
But while many options exist, Tolbert said he could foresee “a place for growth hormone to fit in.”
What’s “interesting,” he added, was that it only had to be taken for a finite amount of time in this trial, and not continuously. So that’s a potential advantage, he said.