Our goal is NO NEW FRACTURES. Therefore, Treat to Target means a FRAX score of <20% for “major osteoporotic” and <3% for hip fracture. Alternately, T-score of better than -1.5 if there are any fractures.
Antiresorptives do not substantially increase bone mass or BMD. While a 3-5% BMD improvement can be seen when a long term deficiency in calcium absorption is corrected, the function of an antiresorptive is to maintain current bone mass.
If you want to substantially increase bone mass, you must use an anabolic medication. We now have 2. Forteo (teriparatide) has been available for 15 years. Tymlos (abaloparatide) was approved late last spring, but has only achieved good coverage by a majority of insurance companies in the last month.
Both can be given for up to 24 months. Both must be followed by an antiresorptive to avoid loss of gains. Both will show continued improvement in BMD for up to 3 years after switching to an antiresorptive because calcium takes up to 3 years to fully accumulate in new bone matrix formed by an anabolic.
Both should NOT be given to anyone with open growth plates, Paget’s, radiation to bone, cancers which have or could spread to bone, elevated bone specific alkaline phosphatase other than from fracture healing, or pregnant or nursing women.
Tymlos is approved for postmenopausal women only. It does not stimulate bone turnover significantly and therefore shows faster BMD increase initially in the hip. It has not been tested for use after antiresorptives.
Forteo is approved for men and women with osteoporosis which is “age-related”, or from steroid use, or from idiopathic hypogonadism. Forteo significantly increases both osteoblast and osteoclast activity, thereby stimulating bone turnover, which is often suppressed after long-term antiresorptives. Forteo is the default treatment for ONJ and AFF.
If you are dealing with vertebral fractures on VFA, or really low BMD on DXA, or with multiple fragility fractures, you need an ANABOLIC FIRST, to decrease fracture risk. Then follow with antiresorptives to maintain a low enough fracture risk.
Remember, even these medications will fail without proper nutrition.
jay Ginther, MD