Drug May Cut Bone Healing Time in Half

Posted by Admin on March 28, 2010

A drug that was cleared by the government as a treatment for osteoporosis has demonstrated an ability to help bone fractures in older people heal as quickly as in the young, by stimulating the activity and production of stem cells, according to a preliminary study.


“The decreased healing time is significant, especially when fractures are in hard-to-heal areas like the pelvis and the spine, where you can’t easily immobilize the bone and stop the pain,” said Susan V. Bukata, medical director of the Center for Bone Health, at the University of Rochester Medical Center New York, in a news release.
   
“Typically, a pelvic fracture will take months to heal, and people are in extreme pain for the first eight to 12 weeks,” she continued. “This time was more than cut in half. We saw complete pain relief, callus formation and stability of the fracture in people who had fractures that up to that point had not healed.”
   
In the study, the researchers administered teriparatide (Forteo) to 145 patients who had broken bones that had remained unhealed, often for six months or more. After eight to 12 weeks, 93 percent of the subjects showed considerable healing and pain relief. The drug appeared to accomplish this, the scientists said, by boosting the number and activity of bone and cartilage stem cells.
   
Taking note of the findings, the federal National Institutes of Health is backing a clinical trial of teriparatide’s effect on bone healing in older Americans. The focus is on seniors because when they break a bone, it typically heals slowly. If the study confirms the drug’s benefit, it could be a boon for hundreds of thousands of Americans, especially the 60,000 or so who suffer a broken pelvis each year.
   
“It takes three to four months for a typical pelvis fracture to heal,” Bukata said. “But, during those three months, patients can be in excruciating pain, because there are no medical devices or other treatments that can provide relief to the patient. Imagine if we can give patients a way to cut the time of their pain and immobility in half?”
   
Providing pain relief and speeding recovery time for those with broken bones would also reduce hospital costs and lower death rates. About “one-quarter of all older women with pelvic fractures will die from complications,” Bukata said.


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