Researchers say monoclonal antibody therapy for osteoporosis is cost-effective

An international team of economists and information scientists has determined that the long-term use of a recently approved osteoporosis medication, denosumab, is cost-effective when compared to oral osteoporosis drugs.

In an article published in the journal Osteoporosis International (OI), researchers said that using denosumab in place of other medications could save as much as $37,000 over the course of five years.

Denosumab was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June 2010 for use among patients who have osteoporosis or are at risk for fractures, Bioscience Technology reports.

Also known by its U.S. brand name, Prolia, denosumab is taken once every six months in an injection, a treatment that currently costs about $850 per doctor's visit, the news source states. While this may seem pricey, the authors of the new study said that it is comparable to or better than certain oral osteoporosis drugs.

The drug itself is a monoclonal antibody, meaning that it targets one specific antigen protein on the surface of one kind of cell within the human body. In this case, that antigen belongs to osteoclasts, a class of cell that breaks down bone tissue.

In healthy bones, osteoclasts work in concert with osteoblasts, which build up bone minerals. This balance keeps bones neither too weak nor too dense. In individuals with bone loss, however, osteoclasts outpace their counterpart cells and break down too much bone too fast.

When injected, denosumab binds to a receptor on osteoclasts and reduces their activity.

The OI study built a conceptual model of extended denosumab use, which took into account a number of potential variables. These included fractures, hospitalizations, adherence to medication, bone mass density scans and nursing home admittances.

Researchers found that over a five-year period, denosumab would be cost-effective when compared to three orally taken medications - generic alendronate, branded risedronate and strontium ranelate - as well as to no treatment at all.

Taking an injection of the new prescription could ultimately save between $7,000 and $37,000 over that time period, they said. The team added that not having to remember to take daily pills may allow patients on denosumab to more easily complete their full treatment regimen.

An estimated 61 million Americans will have osteoporosis by the year 2020, according to the national Osteoporosis Foundation. 
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