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Promising News About Osteoporosis Drug

September 14, 1998

The osteoporosis drug alendronate can reduce the risk of hip fractures by 56% among women who have never suffered a spinal fracture, a UC San Francisco researcher reports today at an osteoporosis meeting in Berlin.

Earlier studies by Dr. Dennis Black of UCSF had shown that the drug produced a similar reduction in debilitating fractures among women who had already suffered a spinal fracture and, thus, were at increased risk for other bone breaks. Half of the women who suffer hip fractures are disabled, often permanently.

Black and his colleagues studied 6,000 women in a fracture intervention trial and found that alendronate, which goes by the trade name Fosamax, also decreased the risk of a first spinal fracture by 49%. The results also showed that women suffering hip fractures were 6.7 times more likely to die during the course of the study than women who had no fractures, while those suffering a spinal fracture were 8.6 times more likely to die.

In a separate study, also presented at the meeting today, Dr. Charles Chesnut and his colleagues from the University of Washington report that a calcitonin-salmon nasal spray reduced the incidence of new spinal fractures by 36% among postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. More than 1,200 women who had already suffered a spinal fracture took part in the trial of the drug, whose trade name is Miacalcin Nasal Spray.

Drugs May Be Better for Diabetes Than Just Diet

Patients with Type 2 diabetes who receive intensive treatment to lower their blood sugar are less likely to develop many of the complications of diabetes than patients who try to control the disease by diet alone, but they do not appear to live any longer, according to a study in Saturday's Lancet. The results were obtained in the U.K. Prospective Diabetes Study, in which 3,867 patients newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes were assigned to one of two treatment groups. An estimated 10 million people in the United States have Type 2, or adult-onset, diabetes.

One group was told to restrict its diet, while the second took either insulin or one of three oral sulfonylurea drugs--chlorpropamide, glibenclamide or glipizide. Patients in the latter group had an 11% lower blood sugar level, on average, and were 12% less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or eye disease.

In a related study in the same journal, researchers treated overweight Type 2 diabetics with insulin, a sulfonylurea or another drug called metformin. Overall, the Prospective Diabetes Study researchers reported, metformin appeared to be superior. But in patients who received a sulfonylurea before beginning metformin, there was an increased risk of death.

Pill's Anticancer Mechanism Studied

Researchers may have discovered the secret of how oral contraceptives provide protection against ovarian cancer, a discovery that could lead to new ways to prevent the disease, which kills 17,000 American women each year.

Working with monkeys, whose reproductive biology closely mimics that of humans, a team from the Duke University Medical Center found that progestin, a component of birth control pills, triggers the death of ovarian cells with genetic abnormalities.

The study in Wednesday's Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation shows that progestin triggers apoptosis, a genetic "suicide" process, in damaged ovarian cells. Dr. Gus Rodriguez and his colleagues speculated that intermittent administration of progestin to women could kill any such cells that had accumulated between doses, thereby greatly reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. The team plans to begin human trials of the approach this fall.

Smoking Study Cites Divorce as Major Factor

Boys and girls whose parents divorce are more likely to smoke as adults than are children from intact families, but only the sons of divorced parents face a higher probability of becoming problem drinkers, according to new research from the University of Utah. The results suggest that substance abuse education and prevention efforts "should concentrate on the children of divorce," said University of Utah psychologist Nicholas H. Wolfinger.

Wolfinger examined data collected from 1977 to 1994 as part of the National Opinion Research Council's General Social Survey, in which 11,000 people, representing a cross section of U.S. households, were interviewed. He reported in the September Journal of Health and Social Behavior that for both boys and girls, parental divorce increased the likelihood of smoking by about one-third. The effect was diminished somewhat for girls, however, if the mother remarried.

Fewer Infections Tallied in Breast-Fed Preemies

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