A rarely used osteoporosis treatment far outperforms the current gold standard therapy and boosts bone formation 17 times, a study has shown.
Strontium ranelate is currently a thirdline therapy under guidelines set by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Patients in England and Wales with the brittle bone disease are not supposed to be given the drug until two other approaches have been tried first and certain clinical conditions are met.
The French study involved taking and analysing bone samples from 268 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.
Doctors compared the effect on bone of treatment with strontium ranelate and the gold standard bisphosphonate drug alendronate.
Bone forming activity after six months was 14 times greater in patients given strontium ranelate, according to findings presented today at the European Congress on Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis in Valencia, Spain. After a year of treatment, it was 17 times greater.
Strontium ranelate, marketed as Protelos, differs radically from bisphosphonates by promoting bone growth as well as preventing its loss.
Professor Roger Frances, from the Institute for Ageing and Health at the University of Newcastle, said: "These results are so important for patients as strontium ranelate is a proven drug that is already available on the NHS. This study clearly suggests that strontium ranelate helps patients to build new bone to a far greater extent than alendronate, the current standard of care."