The effects of parathyroid hormone and alendronate alone or in combination in postmenopausal osteoporosis

N Engl J Med. 2003 Sep 25;349(13):1207-15. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa031975. Epub 2003 Sep 20.


Background: Parathyroid hormone increases bone strength primarily by stimulating bone formation, whereas antiresorptive drugs reduce bone resorption. We conducted a randomized, double-blind clinical study of parathyroid hormone and alendronate to test the hypothesis that the concurrent administration of the two agents would increase bone density more than the use of either one alone.

Methods: A total of 238 postmenopausal women (who were not using bisphosphonates) with low bone mineral density at the hip or spine (a T score of less than -2.5, or a T score of less than -2.0 with an additional risk factor for osteoporosis) were randomly assigned to daily treatment with parathyroid hormone (1-84) (100 microg; 119 women), alendronate (10 mg; 60 women), or both (59 women) and were followed for 12 months. Bone mineral density at the spine and hip was assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and quantitative computed tomography. Markers of bone turnover were measured in fasting blood samples.

Results: The bone mineral density at the spine increased in all the treatment groups, and there was no significant difference in the increase between the parathyroid hormone group and the combination-therapy group. The volumetric density of the trabecular bone at the spine increased substantially in all groups, but the increase in the parathyroid hormone group was about twice that found in either of the other groups. Bone formation increased markedly in the parathyroid hormone group but not in the combination-therapy group. Bone resorption decreased in the combination-therapy group and the alendronate group.

Conclusions: There was no evidence of synergy between parathyroid hormone and alendronate. Changes in the volumetric density of trabecular bone, the cortical volume at the hip, and levels of markers of bone turnover suggest that the concurrent use of alendronate may reduce the anabolic effects of parathyroid hormone. Longer-term studies of fractures are needed to determine whether and how antiresorptive drugs can be optimally used in conjunction with parathyroid hormone therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alendronate / adverse effects
  • Alendronate / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Remodeling / drug effects
  • Calcium / blood
  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Calcium / urine
  • Collagen / blood
  • Collagen Type I
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Femur Neck / diagnostic imaging
  • Femur Neck / pathology
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / pathology
  • Parathyroid Hormone / adverse effects
  • Parathyroid Hormone / therapeutic use*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Peptides / blood
  • Phosphopeptides / blood
  • Procollagen*
  • Uric Acid / blood
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use


  • Biomarkers
  • Collagen Type I
  • N-propeptide type I collagen
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Peptides
  • Phosphopeptides
  • Procollagen
  • collagen type I trimeric cross-linked peptide
  • Vitamin D
  • Uric Acid
  • Collagen
  • Calcium
  • Alendronate