A drug that treats bone loss can improve balance, physical function, and reduce the fear of falling in older adults who are at risk of fracture, according to a new study.

Denosumab (Dmab) is prescribed to boost bone mineral density and prevent fracture in men and women with osteoporosis and sarcopenia. Prior studies have found that it also appears to be linked to functional improvements, including reduced falls and improved muscle strength.

In the new study, researchers sought to compare the effects of denosumab with those of zoledronic acid, an established treatment for fracture prevention. To that end, they measured changes in muscle strength, balance, and function in 79 older adults at risk of falls and fractures.

The researchers used standardized measurements to test participants for handgrip strength, balance and fear of falling at the study’s start and at a six-week follow-up. At follow-up, participants who took denosumab improved their performance in a number of these measurements, including gait speed. 

“Dmab displayed positive effects on balance, function, and fear of falling, which may underlie reductions in fall rates,” wrote corresponding author Gustavo Duque, M.D., Ph.D., University of Melbourne, Australia.

The study was presented last week at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2019 Annual Meeting.