The relative merits of anabolics versus anti-resorptive compounds: where our targets should be, and whether we are addressing them

Jürg A Gasser
Current Opinion in Pharmacology 2006, 6 (3): 313-8
Currently available results from fracture trials provide evidence that the most potent anti-resorptive agents reduce vertebral and non-vertebral fractures maximally by 61% and 51%, respectively. Results from the Phase III trial with denosumab, the human monoclonal antibody, are eagerly awaited. Denosumab leads to sustained 80-90% reduction of bone resorption markers, which is below the level commonly achieved with bisphosphonates, and it will be interesting to see whether this leads to an improvement in its anti-fracture efficacy over bisphosphonates. If the majority of the anti-fracture efficacy of anti-resorptive agents results from the reduction of the remodelling space (removal of stress raisers) and the conservation of structural integrity of cancellous bone, a further decrease in bone resorption might not be desirable, especially as suppression of the residual remodelling capacity could lead to an increased risk for accumulation of microdamage. In contrast to anti-resorptive agents, the bone anabolic parathyroid hormone activates modelling drifts, which act to increase trabecular thickness and add bone predominantly on the endocortical, and to a lesser degree the periosteal, surface. Despite its anabolic nature, reduction of vertebral and non-vertebral fractures is only marginally better than those achieved with anti-resorptive agents. Ageing compromises locomotor capacity and is associated with an increased risk of falls. Perhaps it is time to shift our attendance to the age-related deterioration of muscle or neuromuscular function as a target and add this 'adjuvant therapy' to the potent anti-remodelling and bone anabolic agents available for the treatment of osteoporosis if we truly want to reduce fracture incidence beyond what is possible today.

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