New bisphosphonates in the treatment of bone diseases

D Gatti, S Adami
Drugs & Aging 1999, 15 (4): 285-96
Bisphosphonates are pyrophosphate analogues, in which the oxygen in P-O-P has been replaced by a carbon, resulting in a P-C-P structure. They are characterised by a strong anti-osteoclastic activity and for this pharmacological property they are now considered the treatment of choice for Paget's disease of the bone, malignant hypercalcaemia and bone metastases. Etidronate, clodronate and pamidronate have been registered in several countries for these indications. Etidronate and alendronate are also extensively used for the prevention and treatment of postmenopausal and senile osteoporosis. In this article, we review the most recent findings on the newest bisphosphonates, which will become available in the near future. The aminobisphosphonate risedronate is undergoing a huge programme of clinical development for the treatment of osteoporosis. In a study of the prevention of early postmenopausal bone loss, oral risedronate 5 mg fully prevented the bone loss observed in the placebo group. Similar effects have been observed with an intermittent dosage regimen of oral risedronate 30 mg/day for 2 out of 12 weeks, which corresponds to 5 mg/day in terms of cumulative dose. With lower doses [5 mg on alternate fortnights (2 weeks)] the prevention of bone loss was half that observed with continuous 5 mg/day therapy, indicating that this might not yet be the maximum effective dose. The use of intermittent intravenous bisphosphonates for osteoporosis therapy has been pioneered by studies with clodronate, pamidronate and alendronate. This treatment regimen has been chosen for an extensive clinical development programme for ibandronate. In a phase 2 study, this new bisphosphonate was administered as an intravenous bolus (0.25, 0.5, 1 or 2 mg) every 3 months for a year, with increases in spinal bone mass of 5.2%. Tiludronate, alendronate and risedronate have been recently introduced for the treatment of Paget's disease of bone. Daily doses of tiludronate 400 mg, alendronate 40 mg and risedronate 30 mg for 3 to 6 months have been shown to be superior to etidronate 400 mg/day. The intravenous administration of ibandronate, zoledronate and alendronate (40 mg, 10 mg and 5 mg, respectively) have achieved the normalisation of serum alkaline phosphatase in more than 70% of the patients and these treatments may provide an alternative for patients intolerant oral bisphosphonates. Intravenous ibandronate has been also developed for the treatment of hypercalcaemia of malignancy. The effective doses ranged from 2 to 4 mg. Zoledronate appears to be the most powerful bisphosphonate under investigation, and the effective doses used in cancer hypercalcaemia are as low as 1 to 2 mg. The new generation of bisphosphonates are likely to increase clinical options in terms of administration regimens, but their real advantage over those already available in terms of clinical efficacy remains uncertain.

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