Osteoporosis is a silent disease that haunts millions of women in America.

Now, a drug patented by a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is showing great promise.

Unlike drugs like Fosamax and Boniva – this treatment actually builds bone – and much more quickly than other treatment options.

Peg Fischer loves to play golf and Elise Fraser teaches pre-schoolers. But both ladies have osteoporosis.

The silent disease impacts millions of women in the United States – and at least 80 percent of those women are never diagnosed with the condition, which leads to a loss of strength in bones.

“Most women who have osteoporosis – if they haven’t had a bone density – don’t know it,” says Dr. Mara Horwitz, of the Pitt School of Medicine. “It is silent. It does not have any scientific symptoms until a fracture occurs.”

Horwitz adds that 70 percent of compression fractures in women with osteoporosis are painless.

“Women don’t realize that they have a fracture until they have had enough over time that they realize that all the sudden their pants are too long or they go to their doctor for their annual exam and they realize they’ve lost an inch or two in height,” said Dr. Horwitz.

A team of researchers led by Horwitz at the Pitt School of Medicine is conducting a study of a drug called para-thyroid hormone related peptide or PTHRP.

Early results show it helps post-menopausal women build bone and thereby fight fractures. The drug has shown that women have a five percent increase in bone density in the lumbar spine in just 90 days – something that would take as long as a year with current treatments.

Fischer has already completed her portion of the study.

“I feel stronger. I feel better,” she said. “Now this might all be psychological, but once they took the final DEX scan I thought, well, I have some improvement. Hope springs eternal.”

Fischer will finish on Nov. 8. Like all the participants in the study, she received a free bone scan that confirmed osteoporosis by showing a loss of bone density in the spine, hip or wrist.

All participants in the study give themselves daily injections of the drug. Fraser has already seen a bit more pep in her step.

“Now I found out I do have this weakness in my bones, and I was able to get the treatment, and thanks to the program, the treatment that I got is excellent. It’s one of the best treatments you can get,” she said

Scientists are a long way from declaring victory in the war on osteoporosis.

But Horwitz says, “We definitely are making headway in the people who are in treatment; unfortunately, a majority of people with osteoporosis still go undiagnosed and untreated. So we have many, many millions more women to diagnose and treat before we can say that we’ve got the majority of this disease under control.”

Researchers at Pitt are looking for post-menopausal women to participate in a study on osteoporosis.

Women selected for the study must not currently be on treatment for the condition that results in bone loss. All participants will receive a free bone scan from the research team.

If you are interested in learning more about the study, please call 800-872-3653.

The cutting-edge bone research being done here in Pittsburgh provides hope that a cure for osteoporosis could be right around the corner.

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