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Risk of osteoporosis drug's side effects not significant, Loyola researchers find

MAYWOOD, Ill. – The risks of developing kidney failure and a calcium deficiency from the popular osteoporosis drug zoledronic acid are extremely rare, according to researchers at Loyola University Health System (LUHS). These findings were presented earlier this month at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research’s annual meeting.

“Osteoporosis is a growing problem in this country,” said Laurae Hicks, first author and Stritch School of Medicine medical student. “These findings are valuable for the millions of Americans who suffer from osteoporosis and are considering their treatment options."

Zoledronic acid is commonly used to treat osteoporosis. The treatment strengthens bones by increasing the process by which bone is broken down and replaced with new bone tissue. While this medication is effective at preventing and treating osteoporosis, potential side effects include kidney failure and hypocalcemia.

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys fail to adequately filter waste products from the blood while hypocalcemia is characterized by low calcium levels in the blood. This condition can lead to a variety of symptoms, including weakness, muscle cramps, excessive nervousness, headaches or uncontrollable twitching and cramping in certain muscles.

“This study helped us determine the severity and prevalence of these side effects,” said Pauline Camacho, MD, study investigator and director of the Loyola University Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease Center. “This will help us assess which patients are good candidates for this treatment."

Researchers studied 237 patients before and after they received injections of zoledronic acid. They found that a slight and clinically insignificant decline in calcium levels may be seen after the first infusion, but these effects appear to be transient. The findings apply only to individuals with normal vitamin D levels and kidney function prior to infusion and cannot be generalized to those with renal insufficiency and existing calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

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Nora Plunkett
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(708) 216-6268
nplunkett@lumc.edu
Anne Dillon
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