The osteoporosis drug Forteo may be trumping its category competition.
In a study developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers concluded that Forteo prevented fractures in arthritis patients with weakened bones more so than osteoporosis bestseller Fosamax, according to reports.
The study, which split the 400 subjects into groups of two, gave one group of injections of Forteo daily and another group of 200 pills containing Fosamax daily.
After 18 months, the differences between the two groups were dramatic. Patients taking Forteo, the report said, had significantly fewer spinal fractures about 0.6 percent of the Forteo group compared with 6.1 percent of the Fosamax group.
Researchers, the Birmingham News said, also measured the spines and hips of the subjects, and found that the Forteo patients had about twice the bone density, higher levels of protein and biological makers for bone formation compared to the Fosamax patients.
The study, which was published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, may change the way doctors treat bone loss, but it also raises concerns that Forteo may carry more risks than Fosamax.
Side effects that occurred in patients that used Forteo ranged from headache to dizziness. However, the study noted, one patient died the day after being withdrawn from the study because of “an adverse event.”
An editorial, which was published along with the study, had stated that the adverse events could have contributed to the 30 percent of patients who stopped taking Forteo. The report noted that many patients needing a drug like Forteo are already very ill and may not be able to tolerate the drug’s side effects.
Forteo is now approved for use in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, and for men with some types of osteoporosis.
Fosamax’s maker, Merck, reports that revenue from that drug is about $3 billion annually. Fosamax was launched in 1995. Forteo has been on the market since 2002 and earns about $1.2 billion per year in revenue, according to its maker Eli Lilly.