News November 2006 Issue

In The News: (11/06)

Taking Osteoporosis Drugs? Let Your Dentist Know
Recent reports have warned about the connection between bone-strengthening drugs and the death of bone tissue (osteonecrosis) in the jaw. While most cases have involved cancer patients who take strong intravenous forms of these drugs, called bisphosphonates, some have involved women who take the drug orally to treat osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates are available under a number of brand names—Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, Didronet, Zometa, and Aredia among them. All are prescribed to treat osteoporosis as well as bone pain in cancer patients. Although they are designed to increase bone density, it is believed that they may also impair new bone formation—in particular, reducing the jawbone’s ability to heal after dental surgery.

If you’re taking a bisphosphonate and have recently been to the dentist or orthodontist, be aware of the symptoms—pain, swelling, or numbness at the site of a tooth extraction or other surgery. Any of these signs should be reported at once. If you’re scheduled for an extraction, implant, or other dental surgery, let your dentist know that you’re currently taking a bisphosphonate so that it can be considered in your treatment.

The benefits of taking bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis far outweigh the risks. Just be sure you’re taking them at the right dosage.

Women With RA Less Likely To Experience Remission
When the issue is rheumatoid arthritis, gender matters. Swedish researchers have found that women are not only more likely to be affected by RA—which isn’t news—but their symptoms are less likely to go into remission—which is news. Although disease activity was similar between men and women patients at the start of treatment, the women had a much lower remission rate than the men.

Why the gender discrepancy? Researchers aren’t sure, but they suspect hormonal differences are involved. They also believe that some biological or environmental trigger affects men and women differently. One thing is certain—smoking nearly doubles a woman’s chances of developing RA.    

There is currently no cure for rheumatoid arthritis—the disease affects everyone differently and treatment varies from person to person. But studies have shown that early diagnoses and aggressive treatment can slow the progression of the disease.

Acupuncture Reduces Neck Pain; Jury Out On Massage
While acupuncture has been shown to relieve chronic neck pain, the same apparently can’t be said for massage. According to two recent Canadian studies which focused on treatment for chronic neck pain, acupuncture—administered in 10 trials involving 661 participants—did not cure the pain but it did provide relief for up to a few weeks and, in some cases, several months.  Researchers said that the effects of acupuncture appeared to be short-term and that larger trials are needed.

The findings on massage—comprising 19 trials involving approximately 1,400 patients—were less conclusive. Researchers considered the quality of the trials poor and questioned whether the massage techniques used in the study would be effective under any circumstances.They also called into question preconceived beliefs by physicians and the public that acupuncture is ineffective while massage is helpful, and further suggested that patients consider either therapy as a complement to conventional medicine, rather than simply an alternative.

Alendronate Trumps Alfacalcidol In Stemming Bone Loss
The bisphosphonate alendronate (Fosamax) was recently shown to outperform alfacalcidol (AlfaD, One-Alpha), an “activated” form of Vitamin D, at preventing steroid-induced bone loss. In a study of 201 rheumatic-disease patients who were starting glucocorticoid treatment, subjects received a daily 10-milligram dose of alendronate or 1-microgram dose of alfacalcidol. At 18 months, a change in lumbar spine bone mineral density(BMD) was noted. While lumbar spine BMD rose by 2.1 percent in the alendronate group, itfell by 1.9 percent in the alfacalcidol group. Vertebral deformities were also more common in the alfacalcidol group. The study was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.