GH increases bone turnover and stimulates osteoblast activity. We hypothesized that administration of MK-677, an orally active GH secretagogue, together with alendronate, a potent inhibitor of bone resorption, would maintain a higher bone formation rate relative to that seen with alendronate alone, thereby generating greater enhancement of bone mineral density (BMD) in women with postmenopausal osteoporosis. We determined the individual and combined effects of MK-677 and alendronate administration on insulin-like growth factor I levels and biochemical markers of bone formation (osteocalcin and bone-specific alkaline phosphatase) and resorption [urinary N-telopeptide cross-links (NTx)] for 12 months and BMD for 18 months. In a multicenter, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, 18-month study, 292 women (64-85 yr old) with low femoral neck BMD were randomly assigned in a 3:3:1:1 ratio to 1 of 4 daily treatment groups for 12 months: MK-677 (25 mg) plus alendronate (10 mg); alendronate (10 mg); MK-677 (25 mg); or a double dummy placebo. Patients who received MK-677 alone or placebo through month 12 received MK-677 (25 mg) plus alendronate (10 mg) from months 12-18. All other patients remained on their assigned therapy. All patients received 500 mg/day calcium. The primary results, except for BMD, are provided for month 12. MK-677, with or without alendronate, increased insulin-like growth factor I levels from baseline (39% and 45%; P < 0.05 vs. placebo). MK-677 increased osteocalcin and urinary NTx by 22% and 41%, on the average, respectively (P < 0.05 vs. placebo). MK-677 and alendronate mitigated the reduction in bone formation compared with alendronate alone based on mean relative changes in serum osteocalcin (-40% vs. -54%; P < 0.05, combination vs. alendronate) and reduced the effect of alendronate on resorption (NTx) as well (-52% vs. -61%; P < 0.05, combination vs. alendronate). MK-677 plus alendronate increased BMD at the femoral neck (4.2% vs. 2.5% for alendronate; P < 0.05). However, similar enhancement was not seen with MK-677 plus alendronate in BMD of the lumbar spine, total hip, or total body compared with alendronate alone. GH-mediated side effects were noted in the groups receiving MK-677, although adverse events resulting in discontinuation from the study were relatively infrequent. In conclusion, the anabolic effect of GH, as produced through the GH secretagogue MK-677, attenuated the indirect suppressive effect of alendronate on bone formation, but did not translate into significant increases in BMD at sites other than the femoral neck. Although the femoral neck is an important site for fracture prevention, the lack of enhancement in bone mass at other sites compared with that seen with alendronate alone is a concern when weighed against the potential side effects of enhanced GH secretion.