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D. A Drug That Prevents Osteoporosis

Narrator: This is Science Today. There's a drug on the market which has been found to prevent fractures in healthy women who are at risk for osteoporosis. Dennis Black, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, says alendronate, which is sold under the brand name Fosamax, reduced the risk of fractures in over 40 percent of women between ages 55 and 80.

Black: I think it's particularly beneficial for women that already have spine fractures or have bone mineral density which is already very low.

Narrator: Alendronate lowers biochemical markers in blood and urine which monitor bone loss. Black says one of the consequences of preventing these fractures may be alleviating hospitalization for causes unrelated to the fractures.

Black: Potentially this drug and other drugs that can prevent fractures could have a good economic impact in terms of saving money eventually, but those analyses really need to be done carefully by economists to compare the cost-effectiveness since not every woman who would have been taking these drugs would have had a fracture.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.