The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your healthcare provider if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medicines as recommended by your healthcare provider, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your healthcare provider.
- Alendronate (Fosamax)
- Risedronate (Actonel)
- Ibandronate (Boniva)
- Zoledronic acid (Zometa, Reclast)
- Estrogen alone (also called estrogen replacement therapy or ERT)
- Estrogen and progestin HRT (also called combined HRT)
- Raloxifene (Evista)
- Calcitonin (Miacalcin)
- Denosumab (Prolia)
The main bisphosphonates approved for the treatment of osteoporosis are:
- Alendronate sodium (Fosamax)
- Risedronate sodium (Actonel)
- Ibandronate (Boniva)
- Zoledronic acid (Zometa, Reclast) which is administered through the vein
Other bisphosphonates include pamidronate (Aredia) and etidronate (Didronel).
Among postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, bisphosphonates can provide the following health benefits:
- Reduced bone loss
- Increased bone density in the spine and hip
- Reduced risk of spine and hip fractures
Bisphosphonates that are taken by mouth should be taken on an empty stomach. Therefore, it is recommended that you take it first thing in the morning with a full glass of water, at least 30 minutes before eating, drinking, or taking other medicines. To minimize side effects, remain in an upright position for at least 30 minutes after taking this medication.
Possible side effects for bisphosphonates include:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Common brand names include:
Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) has been used for both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. ERT has been shown to reduce bone loss, increase bone density in the spine and hip, and reduce the risk of spine and hip fractures in postmenopausal women. ERT is available as a pill or skin patch.
Although ERT may cut the risk of osteoporosis in half, it’s important to note that recent research shows a strong association between longer-term ERT or HRT use and a significantly increased risk of invasive breast cancer , strokes , heart attacks , and blood clots. Be sure to discuss all of the health risks and benefits of hormone therapy with your doctor to determine if it is right for you.
Common brand names include:
Combined HRT has been used for both the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Combined HRT has been shown to reduce bone loss, increase bone density in the spine and hip, and reduce the risk of spine and hip fractures in postmenopausal women. Combined HRT is available as a pill.
Although combined HRT may cut the risk of osteoporosis in half, it’s important to note that recent research shows a strong association between longer-term ERT or HRT use and a significantly increased risk of invasive breast cancer, strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots. Be sure to discuss all of the health risks and benefits of hormone therapy with your doctor to determine if it is right for you.
Raloxifene is one of a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). It helps prevent bone loss at the spine, hip, and total body and may increase bone mass. This medicine may also reduce the risk of spine fractures, and there is some evidence that it can also reduce the risk of breast cancer. Raloxifene is available as a pill and should be taken once a day, with or without meals.
Possible side effects include:
Calcitonin is a naturally occurring hormone that slows bone loss, increases bone density, and reduces the risk of spinal fractures. It may also help reduce or relieve the pain of bone fractures. Calcitonin is approved by FDA for women who are at least five years past menopause. It is available as an injection or a nasal spray.
Possible side effects associated with the injected form of calcitonin include:
- Allergic reaction
- Flushing of the face and hands
- Urinary frequency
- Skin rash
Nasal calcitonin may cause a runny nose.
Denosumab, given as an injection, is a type of monoclonal antibody. The medicine works by targeting cells called osteoclasts, which break down bone. Denosumab is intended for postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis and are at a high risk for fractures .
Common side effects include:
- Back pain
- Pain in the extremities
- Pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones
- High cholesterol levels
- Bladder infections
Whenever you are taking a prescription medicine, take the following precautions:
- Take your medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
- Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
- Do not share them.
- Know what the results and side effects may be. Report them to your doctor.
- Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medicine and herb or dietary supplements.
- Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
- Reviewer: Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 09/2011 -
- Update Date: 03/11/2013 -