11/15/07 The osteoporosis drug teriparatide (Forteo) works better than alendronate (Fosamax) to strengthen bones in arthritis patients with corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a head-to-head comparison of the two drugs in 428 adults with corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis, Forteo, part of a class of drugs called parathyroid hormones, more than doubled bone density measurements and significantly reduced the risk of new spinal fractures when compared to those taking Fosamax.

Forteo increased lumbar spine density measurements by 7.2 percent compared to 3.4 percent for Fosamax, and it boosted hip density measurements by 3.8 percent compared to 2.4 percent for Fosamax, says Kenneth Saag, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who led the study. The study looked at changes in bone density over the course of 18 months.

While corticosteroids are often important for controlling arthritis inflammation, they can cause serious side effects including bone loss.  While Fosamax, a bisphosphonate, is FDA approved to treat corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis, this study shows Forteo may be a new and more effective treatment option.