In order to devise a convenient and effective therapeutic regimen of intranasal salmon calcitonin (sCT) for the treatment of early postmenopausal bone loss, we studied the effects of a 1-year course of sCT nasal spray on vertebral mineral content (VMC), assessed by dual photon densitometry, and bone turnover in 21 early postmenopausal osteoporotic women. Subjects enrolled in the study had a value above the normal average of at least one index of bone turnover: whole body retention (WBR) of 99mTc-methylene-dichloro-bisphosphonate (99mTc-MDP), serum bone gla protein (BGP), urinary hydroxyproline/creatinine excretion (HOP/Cr). After baseline evaluation, patients were randomized for treatment with either sCT (200 IU every other day) or placebo. Treatment with sCT significantly increased VMC by 2.7 +/- 0.9% at 6 months, and 3.3 +/- 0.8% at 1 year, whereas a progressive decline was observed in the placebo group (-2.6 +/- 0.5%, and -3.5 +/- 0.5% after 6 and 12 months, respectively). These changes were associated with a progressive and significant reduction of all parameters of bone turnover in the sCT-treated patients, whereas no changes were detected in the control group during the study period. The differences between the two groups were significant after 1 year for VMC, BGP, and WBR (P less than 0.05, one-way analysis of variance). Thus, 200 IU intranasal sCT administered on alternate days is adequate to stop the fast bone loss occurring early after the menopause in women with high bone turnover rates. This therapeutical modality represents an important addition to the available pharmacologic spectrum for the prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis.