Strontium Compound Prevents Some Fractures

Article excerpt

An experimental drug containing strontium makes bones denser and decreases the risk of fractures, a study of elderly women finds. The results add the drug, called strontium ranelate, to a wave of new treatments for osteoporosis.

Strontium, a soft metal with chemical similarities to calcium, is widely dispersed in nature. In the 1950s, strontium emerged as a potential osteoporosis drug because it shows a natural attraction to bone. But researchers soon shelved that approach. Strontium was later used as a treatment for bone cancer pain.

Recently, researchers combined strontium with ranelic acid to produce the experimental drug. It aided bone growth and boosted bone density in animal studies and lessened fractures in preliminary tests in people.

In the new study, between 1996 and 1998, researchers identified 1,442 postmenopausal women, average age 69, who had osteoporosis. The women all began taking vitamin D and calcium supplements. Half also received 2 grams of strontium ranelate powder daily. The others got an inert powder as a placebo.

During the 3-year test period, 21 percent of the women taking strontium ranelate suffered a vertebral fracture, compared with 33 percent of those getting the placebo, physician Pierre J. Meunier of the Edouard Herriot Hospital in Lyon, France, and his colleagues report in the Jan. 29 New England Journal of Medicine.

The two groups of women had begun the study with similar bone density. After 3 years of participation, those getting the placebo had a 1. …