Osteoporosis is traditionally thought of as a women's disease, however, it also poses a significant threat to men. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, twelve million men are at risk of the disease, yet, despite the large number of men affected, osteoporosis remains under-diagnosed and under-reported. At present, one in five men will develop osteoporosis and one in four will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in his lifetime.

According to the National Institutes of Health's Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases Natural Resource Center, the most common causes of secondary osteoporosis in men include low levels of testosterone (hypogonadism), alcohol abuse, smoking, gastrointestinal disease, hypercalciuria, and immobilization.

"The longer we live the more important bone health becomes," says noted expert Warren Levy, PhD, president, and CEO of Unigene Laboratories, a company on the forefront of the search for effective new drugs for treatment of the condition. "Fortunately, early screening can help identify patients at risk for the disease and, if osteoporosis does develop, treatments are available."

The most commonly prescribed of these treatments is a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are the active ingredient in widely prescribed osteoporosis medications such as Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva. "These medicines work by inhibiting the osteoclast cells that remove bone, thereby preserving bone," explains Levy. "In some instances however, users of bisphosphonates have experienced conditions that suggest that the body may have lost the ability to repair and replace older or damaged bone, a normal function of osteoclasts. These conditions may include osteonecrosis of the jaw and the occurrence of sudden fractures that do not heal normally."

Unigene Laboratories has developed a product that provides osteoporosis sufferers with a safe, effective treatment using a natural hormone with a proven thirty-year history. Unigene's peptide-based nasally delivered osteoporosis treatment appears to pose few, if any, long-term health threats to users. It is available today in a prescription drug called Fortical from Upsher-Smith Laboratories. Unigene is also developing an oral version of the product.

According to Levy, the problem of male osteoporosis has recently been recognized as an important public health issue, particularly as rates of life expectancy continue to rise.