In the half-century since their introduction to medicine, glucocorticoid steroids have been hailed as wonder drugs that have enabled millions of people to combat rheumatoid arthritis, severe asthma, autoimmune diseases, and organ-transplant complications. But the drugs have some serious risks, notably the bone-loss disease osteoporosis. The steroids hamper—and may even kill—bone-building cells.
To stop bone loss, many people take drugs that preserve existing bone, but a newer drug, teriparatide (Forteo), activates bone-building cells instead. A new study finds that boosting bone growth may be the more effective choice for longtime steroid users who have developed osteoporosis.