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      By Faith Reidenbach

      NEW YORK, Sep 22 (Reuters) — Once-daily injections of parathyroid hormone
      prevent bone loss in young women who have low levels of the hormone estrogen
      due to drug therapy, according to a report in The Journal of the American
      Medical Association for September 23/30.

      The researchers who published the findings suggest that parathyroid hormone
      may be able to prevent osteoporosis — bone-thinning disease — in women
      entering natural menopause.

      “Parathyroid hormone therapy gives a possible new approach to preventing
      postmenopausal bone loss,” lead researcher Dr. Joel S. Finkelstein, of
      Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told Reuters Health. “It works by
      stimulating new bone formation.”

      Other anti-osteoporosis medications, such as estrogen and the new drug
      alendronate, work by inhibiting the breakdown of bone, he said.

      Finkelstein and his colleagues studied 43 women, ages 21 to 45, who had low
      estrogen levels because they were taking the drug nafarelin to treat the
      gynecological disorder endometriosis.

      Nafarelin suppresses the release of estrogen, so the patients had severe
      estrogen deficiency, which can lead to bone loss. All women had normal bone
      thickness at the start of the study.

      The research team assigned the women to take nafarelin for 12 months. Half of
      the study group also injected parathyroid hormone once daily.

      They found that the women who took parathyroid hormone maintained bone
      density in the upper part of the thigh bone. Thin bone at that site is often
      associated with hip fractures.

      In contrast, women who did not take parathyroid hormone experienced
      significant thinning of the upper part of the thigh bone.

      Spinal bone thickness increased significantly among women who took
      parathyroid hormone, the investigators found. It decreased significantly among
      women taking nafarelin alone.

      “This is the first study that’s ever demonstrated that a medication which works
      by stimulating bone formation can prevent bone loss due to estrogen
      deficiency,” Finkelstein said in the interview with Reuters Health.

      “We’re now starting a large study, funded by the National Institutes of Health,”
      he added. “It will look at the effects of parathyroid hormone when given for 3
      years, in differing doses, to women entering the natural menopause to
      determine the long-term effects in that group of women.”

      Finkelstein noted that the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet
      approved the use of parathyroid hormone for the prevention of osteoporosis, so
      physicians cannot prescribe it except in scientific studies. SOURCE: The
      Journal of the American Medical Association 1998;280:1067-1073.

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