Osteoporosis Drug Helps Heal Broken Bones

A well-known drug for treating people with osteoporosis has been surprisingly successful to help heal people with broken bones.

CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton shared the exciting details with Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez.

The osteoporosis drug called Forteo, which has been approved by the FDA for treatment of osteoporosis in 2002, has a secondary benefit that helps bone-stimulating cells heal a fracture, according to Ashton.

Ashton demonstrated the results through a graphic that shows a giant fracture in the shin bone.

The actual images were taken before and after treatment with the medication, which was after about 12 weeks, she explained. Red callous, which is a pre-bone formation, can be seen. "That has to be laid down first before the bone fracture can heal," Ashton said.

The secondary benefit of Forteo was really found by accident.

"A lot of discoveries in medicine occur this way," she explained. "Doctors who were paying attention found, by chance, it was really helping people decrease their pain and heal faster. So it's really exciting."

This discovery is great news for the elderly, who often fall and never quite heal.

"This is a huge source of morbidity amongst elderly people. The risk of death after a major bone fracture can be as high as one in four," Ashton said. "So not only is it important to help decrease their pain but get them up and running and actually could be life-saving. So this is very important."