Zoledronic acid is new treatment for osteoporosis that is used only once a year, and is given through a drip into a vein. It is now available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Osteoporosis is a common condition which causes brittle bones which are prone to breaking easily, for example after a minor bump or fall.
Bone under the microscope. Osteoporosis causes thin and brittle bones that break easily.
Zoledronic acid improves the strength of bones and can prevent fractures (bone breaks). It appears to be as effective as the other bisphosphonates (alendronate and risedronate) which are widely used in tablet form.
Zoledronic acid is injected into a vein in the arm over 15 minutes. It can be used for up to 3 years.
The treatment can cause fever, aches and pains, nausea and headache in the first few days. Symptoms are usually mild to moderate and are much less frequent after the second and third injections.
Like other bisphosphonates, zoledronic acid can cause a reduced blood calcium level, kidney, heart or eye problems and, rarely, osteonecrosis of the jaw (breakdown of the bone of the jaw after dental surgery).
Who is it suitable for?
Zoledronic acid may be more convenient for people who find it hard to remember to take tablets regularly or to stay upright after treatment, as is required with bisphosphonate tablets.
It may also be suitable for people who get heartburn or stomach irritation from bisphosphonate tablets.
Zoledronic acid is also much cheaper than bisphosphonate tablets, requiring only one script per year instead of thirteen.
It is subsidised by the PBS for women with a previous fracture and men with a past hip fracture, as a result of minor injury.
If you have osteoporosis, speak to your GP to discuss whether zoledronic acid is suitable for you.
For more information, visit the National Prescribing Service or call the Medicines Line on 1300 888 763 to speak to a pharmacist (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm EST).
Health Update, 20 December 2008
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.