Yearly drug

Happy birthday, now take your medicine. Can you ever imagine saying this to someone? Well, it may actually happen. Swiss drugmaker Novartis announced over the weekend that it is in final development of a yearly medication to treat osteoporosis, according to this article from the Sydney Morning Herald. As you know, osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and in some cases break or fracture.

I really try to keep up on this stuff. Because even though this drug is still in clinical trials and not able to be prescribed yet, I guarantee I will get questions about this in my office. Even though it sounds promising, here's the rub...

The most common side-effects associated with intravenous injection of Aclasta included fever, muscle pain, flu-like symptoms and bone pain. Most occurred within three days of administration of the drug and were resolved within three days of onset, Novartis said.
Potential side effects is one of the major stumbling blocks for drugs succeeding. There's already a drug out now for osteoporosis which you only take once a month. "Does this mean that if I have side effects, they will last a month?" patients ask me. I then quote them the info from the company, but the perception is there. Yes, it's good that you only have to take it once a month. But, it's bad if you have a problem.

The other major stumbling block is cost. No one knows how much this whiz-bang new drug is going to cost. I'm definitely sensitive to the cost of meds for my patients. In my practice, the typical patient who would get this drug will already be on between 5-8 other prescription medications, in addition to over the counter and herbal meds. The cost adds up quickly.

I understand that companies want to generate buzz and attention for new drugs in their pipeline. But, it does cut both ways. And, sometimes, the negative press can overwhelm anything positive. We'll have to see what happens with this medication.