UNC-CH Studies Show Medicine Can Reverse Osteoporosis From Transplants, Cystic Fibrosis

CHAPEL HILL - Studies of a drug known as Pamidronate indicate that the drug is highly effective in partially reversing the bone weakening known as osteoporosis due to drugs taken after various transplants, including lung transplants in cystic fibrosis patients.

The studies, described at the 12th Annual North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference in Montreal that ended Sunday (Oct. 18), found that patients treated with Pamidronate experienced about a 10 percent reversal of bone loss caused by immuno-suppressant drugs.

Drs. Robert M. Aris, assistant professor of medicine; David Ontjes, professor of medicine; and Gayle E. Lester, research associate professor of orthopaedics, all at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, conducted the research with help from 35 cystic fibrosis patients. All patients had undergone lung transplants because of failing health.

"Several clinical trials, conducted in Europe and the United States, have explored ways to stop or reverse post-transplant osteoporosis but without much success," Aris said. "We think this is the first evidence not only that you can treat osteoporosis after lung transplantation for cystic fibrosis, but also it's the first evidence of a good drug response to osteoporosis after transplant."

Doctors are required to give patients steroids and immuno-suppressants such as cyclosporin to prevent transplanted tissue from being rejected.

"Although these drugs prevent rejection, unfortunately they weaken bones," Aris said. "They impact bones in a half-dozen or more ways such as by blocking calcium absorption in the gut, by promoting bone resorption, or breakdown, and by diminishing new bone formation. Higher fracture rates result after transplantation due in part to these immuno-suppressants."

Twenty-two of 35 lung transplant patients have completed the two-year Pamidronate treatment study at UNC-CH, including one w

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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