A study presented June 13 in Amsterdam at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology demonstrates that two infusions of zoledronic acid — one per year — didn’t greatly reduce pain or bone marrow damage in knee osteoarthritis patients. But, researchers suggest, it could benefit patients with milder disease.

In a news release, Thomas Dörner, chairman of EULAR’s abstract selection committee, noted that osteoarthritis affects more than 40 million Europeans and causes significant pain and financial burden, which is expected to increase in a rapidly-aging population. “There are very limited effective treatment options for the disease and bone marrow lesions (damage) remain an important therapeutic target,” he said.

This study, of nearly 225 patients, comes on the heels of a prior one, conducted in 59 adult patients, which suggested that a single zoledronic acid infusion could reduce knee pain and bone marrow damage for six months. The new study, a multicenter, randomized, double-blinded, and placebo-controlled one, looked at the impact of the infusion over two years.

The findings, which don’t replicate the previous study’s positive results, are “disappointing,” said study author Graeme Jones, of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in Australia. “However, there may be a role for zoledronic acid to relieve symptoms in patients with mild osteoarthritis,” he said.

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