Recent study results have shown that a once yearly intramuscular Vitamin
D3 (cholecalciferol) injection can effectively treat Vitamin D deficiency,
and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
The study published in the July edition of the Medical Journal of
Australia was conducted at the metabolic bone clinic at The St George
Associate Professor Terry Diamond, Lead investigator of the study,
Endocrinologist at The St George Hospital and Founder of the Osteoporosis
Sydney Support Group said, “Adequate amounts of Vitamin D gives us healthy
bones, and Vitamin D is produced in humans through exposure to sunlight.
Many people assume that Australia is the ‘sunny’ country, and that
everyone probably receives too much sun exposure, this is not always the
case. There are a number of Australians who are at high risk of vitamin D
deficiency. It is estimated that approximately 15-35 per cent of elderly
community dwelling men and women and a staggering 60-80 per cent of those
living in residential homes and old-age institutions have Vitamin D
“It is the little old lady with multiple skin cancers who downs her sunhat
and covers her body with copious quantities of UV- protective sunscreen
lotion prior to venturing out of the home, who is at particular risk. We
are not as concerned about the young sun-seeking beach followers who are
at much greater risk for skin cancer and would rarely have a vitamin D
“The study results are quite significant as a once yearly injection of
Vitamin D3 could provide an effective therapy to replenish Vitamin D
deficiency in the elderly and reduce their risk of getting osteoporosis.
It would also greatly enhance medical compliance. In Australia, there are
currently no effective high-dose Vitamin D preparations available to
patients. Simple over-the-counter oral vitamin D supplements are a poor
substitute and costly at $15-20 for a months supply,” said Professor
The prospective open-label study was conducted in a single institution to
assess the safety and efficacy of a single therapeutic annual
intramuscular injection of 15mg Cholecalciferol in treating Vitamin D
deficiency. The study was conducted on 5 men and 45 women with evidence of
Vitamin D deficiency, aged between 32-87 years (mean age, 66.3 years).
Following the intramuscular injection of 15mg Cholecalciferol, Vitamin D
serum levels normalised in all patients and increased by an average of 128
per cent over the 12 months.
No patient developed hypercalcaemia (high calcium level in the blood). But
mild hypercalciuria (abnormally high levels of calcium in the urine) was
noted in two participants throughout the study. While the therapy appears
to be safe, the potential for developing hypercalciuria needs to be
examined in a large randomised controlled trial.
Osteoporosis is a disease of brittle bones. Loss of bone mineral (calcium)
leads to weakening of the skeleton, fragility and bony fractures. Vitamin
D deficiency accelerates the development of osteoporosis. Classical risk
factors for osteoporosis include being a post-menopausal woman, having a
small body frame, and having a history of smoking, excess alcohol, coffee
consumption and lack of exercise. Recent data has demonstrated that
genetic factors may also play a key roll in osteoporosis.
“The rates of osteoporosis in Australia are rising as the population ages.
In Australia, one in two women and one in three men aged 60 years and
older suffer from osteoporosis.
While too much sun exposure can lead to melanoma, it is vital that
Australians receive a ‘safe’ amount of sun exposure each day. This is
considered to be 10-15 minutes daily, either in the mid morning or late
afternoon, but not in the midday heat,” said Associate Professor Diamond.
“A diagnosis of osteoporosis does not mean a patient has to put their life
on hold. There are now newer treatments available for patients that can
reduce fracture rates by up to 80 per cent and people can still lead a
full life by learning more about the disease and how to manage it
Associate Professor Diamond established the Osteoporosis Sydney Support
Group (OSSG) to provide people diagnosed with osteoporosis not only with
educational support, but with interactive support as well.
“The Osteoporosis Sydney Support Group has been running for yen years and
currently has more than 600 male and female members from all over Sydney,
and membership numbers are continually growing,” said Associate Professor
According to Antoinette O’Sullivan, Programme Coordinator, The
Osteoporosis Sydney Support Group, “The services offered by the OSSG
include; ongoing exercise classes; lectures and information sessions on
various topics related to osteoporosis and general well-being, which are
conducted by specialists; a telephone support service; social support such
as hospital visits and get well cards; and a bi-monthly newsletter for all
As well as providing support for men and women suffering from or at risk
of osteoporosis, the group also conduct ongoing research into the
management and treatment of osteoporosis and provide seminars for General
Practitioners on osteoporosis.”