A new bone-building drug has been developed that will help reduce the frequency of treatments for osteoporosis sufferers from once a day to once every three months.
Most of the drugs currently used to treat osteoporosis, or brittle bones, simply stop old bone from being broken down by the body.
AdvertisementBut the new medicine, which could be available in as little as three years, helps by binding to sclerostin, a protein that slows down or blocks the building of new bone.
The drug stops the protein working, speeding up the bone-building process.
Its creation began with the study of a group of people whose bones were abnormally strong due to a rare disease called sclerosteosis.
Scientists identified the gene that strengthened their bones and showed that it works by stopping sclerostin from being made.
In a trial on more than 400 women the "sclerostin-antibody" jab "compared favourably" with existing drugs.
"We are encouraged by the results of this study," the Daily Mail quoted Dr Roger Perlmutter, of U.S. drug company Amgen, which is developing the drug with a Belgian company, as saying.
Osteoporosis occurs when the body breaks down old bone more quickly than it is built.
An estimated three million Britons are thought to be affected, with 230,000 breaking weakened bones each year and 1,150 dying each month after fracturing a hip.
The women who took part in the trial were given injections once a month or once every three months. Many of the existing drugs need to be taken daily, which patients often find so inconvenient they stop taking them.
A further, larger-scale trial is planned. If it shows the new drug to be safe and effective, it could be on the market in three to five years.