Merck & Co says that it has won US Food and Drug Administration clearance for a new version of its osteoporosis treatment, Fosamax Plus D (alendronate sodium/cholecalciferol) – a once-weekly tablet containing Fosamax in combination with seven days’ worth of vitamin D.

The product is designed to help doctors better manage vitamin D nutrition in patients. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D is necessary for the development of strong bones, because it helps increase the intestinal absorption of calcium. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with reduced calcium absorption, bone loss and increased risk of fracture.

Fosamax Plus D, which is specifically approved for the treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, has been shown to increase bone mass and reduce the incidence of fracture, including those of the hip and spine. It is also indicated to increase bone mass in men with osteoporosis.