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January 2012

Researchers Compare Osteoporosis Drug Effectiveness

Strontium ranelate may be a more efficient osteoporosis drug than alendronate, according to a recent study.

Strontium is a metallic element that has properties similar to those of calcium. The body can easily incorporate strontium into bones and tooth enamel. Strontium ranelate is a frequently prescribed drug for post-menopausal osteoporosis that may not only prevent the breakdown of bone, but may also encourage bone growth and density.

The strength of bones depends on their size and density. Bone density depends in part on the amount of calcium, phosphorus, boron and other minerals that bones contain. When bones contain fewer minerals than normal, they are less strong and eventually lose their internal supporting structure. Genetic and environmental factors, such as diet and exercise, also affect bone strength. There are many reasons that bone becomes less dense than normal. Bone is continuously changing. New bone is made and old bone is broken down in a process called remodeling, or bone turnover.

Researchers set out to compare strontium ranelate to alendronate, another osteoporosis drug. They recruited 83 post-menopausal women with an average age of 64. The team collected data on participants' bone density and growth, both before and after taking the drugs.

The results showed that both drugs were well tolerated. However, strontium ranelate was associated with higher bone density and strength.

The scientists concluded that strontium ranelate may have a stronger influence on the structure of the bones than alendronate. However, they added that more evidence is needed in order to better understand these findings.

During the first few years after menopause, women may lose bone density at a rapid rate, increasing their risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak, leading to an increased risk of fractures. Postmenopausal women are especially susceptible to fractures of the hip, wrist, and spine. It is important for all women to get adequate calcium and vitamin D. It is recommended by healthcare professionals for postmenopausal women to have about 1,200-1,500 milligrams of elemental calcium and 800 international units of vitamin D daily. Healthcare professionals recommend regular exercise. Strength training and weight-bearing activities such as walking and jogging are especially beneficial in keeping the bones strong and healthy. It is important to check for the amount of elemental calcium on the supplement label.

Fractures are the most frequent and serious complication of osteoporosis. Fractures often occur in the spine or hips, bones that directly support weight. Hip fractures, the second most common type of osteoporotic fracture, usually result from a fall. Although most individuals do relatively well in recovery with modern surgical treatment, hip fractures can result in disability and even death from postoperative complications, especially in older adults. Wrist fractures from falls are also common. Complications from osteoporotic fractures include chronic pain (neck, lower back), compressed or collapsed vertebra, disability, depression, limited activity, dowager's hump, stooped posture, and loss of height.

For more information about osteoporosis, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Rizzoli R, Chapurlat RD, Laroche JM, et al. Effects of strontium ranelate and alendronate on bone microstructure in women with osteoporosis : Results of a 2-year study. Osteoporos Int. 2012 Jan;23(1):305-15. View Abstract
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