The use of strontium ranelate, marketed as Protelos, could slow the progress of osteoarthritis (OA) and avert the need for costly hip and knee replacements, according to a new study.
Trial results suggest the so-called “breakthrough” drug, which costs less than £1 a day, is the first to slow the progress of OA, the wear-and-tear disease which destroys joints.
Findings of the international Phase III trial were presented at the European Congress on Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis (ECCEO) in Bordeaux, France.
Protelos - a powder that is mixed with water to make a lemon-flavoured drink - is already used to prevent fractures in post-menopausal women with the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.
Its French manufacturer, Servier, is believed to be seeking an altered use licence from European regulators.
In the latest trial, 1,683 OA patients - mostly female and with an average age of 63 - were randomly treated with either 1g or 2g daily doses of Protelos (or an inactive placebo). Best results were achieved with the 2g dose.
It found that Protelos reduced deterioration of knee joint cartilage by a third in a group of OA patients monitored annually for up to three years. It also led to a significant reduction in pain and improved day-to-day mobility.
Protelos already has a proven safety record, so it could be swiftly re-licensed to treat OA.