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Rheumatol Int. 2012 Jan;32(1):207-15. doi: 10.1007/s00296-010-1607-y. Epub 2010 Sep 9.

Alfacalcidol improves muscle power, muscle function and balance in elderly patients with reduced bone mass.

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ZORG (Zurich Osteoporosis Research Group), Zollikerberg, Switzerland.


We investigated the effect of daily therapy with 1 mcg alfacalcidol (Doss(®)-TEVA/AWD-pharma) on muscle power, muscle function, balance performance and fear of falls in an open, multi-centered, uncontrolled, prospective study on a cohort of patients with reduced bone mass. Among the 2,097 participants, 87.1% were post-menopausal women and 12.9% were men. Mean age was 74.8 years and mean body mass index (BMI) 26.3 kg/m². A total of 75.3% of the study population had osteoporosis, 81% a diagnosis of "increased risk of falls" and 70.1% had a creatinine clearance (CrCl) of <65 ml/min. Participants underwent muscle function and muscle power tests at onset and after 3 and 6 months: the timed up and go test (TUG) and the chair rising test (CRT). At baseline and after 6 months, participants performed the tandem gait test (TGT) and filled out a questionnaire evaluating fear of falling. Successful performance in the muscle tests is associated with a significantly lower risk of falls and non-vertebral fractures in elderly patients (successful test performance: TUG ≤ 10 s (sec), CRT ≤ 10 s, TGT ≥ 8 steps). A significant improvement in the performance of the two muscle tests was proved already after 3 months of treatment with alfacalcidol and further increased by the end of the therapeutic intervention. There were significant increases in the number of participants able to successfully perform the tests: 24.6% at baseline and 46.3% at the end of trial for the TUG (P < 0.0001) and 21.7% at baseline and 44.2% at the end for the CRT test (P = 0.0001). The mean time used for the TUG was decreased by 3.0 s from the average onset value of 17.0 s and by 3.1 s from the initial average 16.5 s for the CRT. The percentage of participants able to perform the balance test (TGT) increased from 36.0% at onset to 58.6% at the end of the trial (P < 0.0001). An increased fear of falling was reduced by the end of the study in 74.4% of the patients. Throughout the study, there were 26 adverse drug reactions in 11 out of 2,097 patients (incidence 0.52%). No serious adverse drug reactions and no cases of hypercalcemia were documented. We conclude that treatment with alfacalcidol is safe, increases muscle power, muscle function and balance and reduces fear of falls. The significant improvement in the three muscle and balance tests and fear of falls may have a preventative effect on falls and fractures. We suggest that the quantitative risk tests used in this study could be reliable surrogate parameters for the risk of falls and fractures in elderly patients.

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