But researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that the first such drug now available, called teriparatide (brand name Forteo), is not cost-effective compared with the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis medication, alendronate (brand name Fosamax). While the average wholesale price of alendronate is about $900 per year, teriparatide costs nearly eight times as much at about $6,700 annually. The findings, to be published in the June 12 Archives of Internal Medicine, suggest that teriparatide should be given only to the highest-risk patients and to those who don't tolerate standard treatments.
"We're not saying you shouldn't use this new drug at all, but, given that we have limited health-care resources, we need to consider whether we as a society are prepared to pay the additional cost of the drug, given the effectiveness of existing therapies," said lead study author Hau Liu, MD, MPH, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford's Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research.
A disease most prevalent in postmenopausal women, osteoporosis causes bones to become porous and weak, making them vulnerable to fractures even with minor falls. An estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, though studies find that fewer than half of them know it. People with osteoporosis have higher mortality rates and a lower quality of life than the general population due to fractures that can bring on complications and restrict daily activities. Patients with hip fractures, in particular, are often hospitalized and may require subsequent nursing-home care.