Effective Medications for Treating Bone Loss

Effective Medications Reverse Osteoporosis Symptoms

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Effective medications for treating bone loss increase bone density and lower the risk of fractures in patients with osteoporosis and other conditions. Some of these commonly prescribed drugs help the body rebuild your bones while others protect you from future loss.

As with any medication, women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or nursing should contact their health care provider about drug precautions specific to their condition.

Bisphosphonates Prevent Bone Loss

Bisphosphonates are a group of medications successfully prescribed to prevent bone loss since the mid-nineties. They reduce the activity of cells that cause bone loss, which results in a net increase in bone density.

Over 95 percent of patients treated with bisphosphonates increase their scores on bone density testing.

Once prescribed, you might not need to take bisphosphonates for the rest of your life. After three to five years of rebuilding your bones, physicians may recommend that patients with a low risk of fracture can stop taking it, according to a review from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Actonel (risedronate)

Risedronate is the generic name for the bisphosphonate drug Actonel. It prevents and treats bone loss. In clinical trials, Actonel:

  • reduced the risk of hip fractures in women with osteoporosis by about 60 percent after three years
  • decreased the chance of spinal fractures in patients taking cortisone medications by 70 percent in 12 months 
  • lowered the risk of spinal fractures by up to 69 percent in 12 months

Bisphosphonate Precautions

To prevent indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal discomfort from bisphosphonates don't lay down for 30 to 60 minutes after taking it.

Drink water with this osteoporosis medication because fluids, such as orange juice or coffee can impede absorption.

Fosamax (alendronate)

Alendronate is another kind of bisphosphonate proven effective to reverse bone loss. In clinical trials of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis it:

  • reduced bone loss and increased bone density in both the spine and hip
  • reduced the risk of spine fractures by up to 62 percent after taking for two years and hip fractures by 56 percent after taking it four years

Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERM) Strengthen Bones

Evista (raloxifene), a SERM, helps make bones stronger in osteoporosis patients and reduces the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women who had never been diagnosed.

This medication has estrogen-like effects on some tissues and anti-estrogen effects on other tissues. An alternative to hormone replacement therapy, raloxifene doesn't increase the risk of breast cancer or uterine bleeding.

SERM Precautions

You should not take raloxifene if:

  • you have or ever had blood clots in your eyes, lungs or legs
  • you are pregnant or could become pregnant
  • you are nursing -- this drug passes into your breastmilk and effects are currently unknown

Non-Estrogen Hormone Therapy With Calcitonin

Miacalcin, a nasal spray, and Calcimar, an injection, are brand names for the non-estrogen hormone medication calcitonin. ​Approved for the treatment of osteoporosis in women at least five years beyond menopause, it helps your body regulate calcium and bone metabolism.

In postmenopausal women, calcitonin increases bone density, particularly in the spine. The nasal spray, in particular, has been shown to increase bone density, especially in the first year, but had less effect in the second year of treatment.

Calcitonin Precautions

Precautions for this effective bone loss medication include the following:

  • Tell your doctor of you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.
  • If you become pregnant while using calcitonin, call your doctor.
  • Your health care professional might recommend taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement. 

Parathyroid Hormone Therapy

Forteo, generic name teriparatide, is a synthetic version of parathyroid hormone given as a daily injection. It's commonly prescribed for bone loss treatment in patients diagnosed with osteoporosis who either have a high risk of fractures or who failed to respond to, or experienced side effects with, other medications. 

Your body naturally produces this hormone and stimulates bone formation. It actually builds new bone by increasing the activity and number of bone-forming cells called osteoblasts. 

In clinical trials, Forteo decreased the risk of spinal fractures in postmenopausal women by 65 percent after nineteen months. 

Parathyroid Hormone Therapy Precautions

The most common side effects of Forteo are dizziness and leg cramps and it's recommended to not have parathyroid hormone therapy for more than two years.

Tell your doctor about any pre-existing health conditions. You are not eligible for parathyroid hormone therapy if:  

  • you had Paget's disease (a disease of the bone)
  • radiation treatment to bones
  • bone cancer
  • high blood calcium levels 


BreastCancer.org: Evista (2015)

National Institutes Of Health, Medline Plus: Risedronate U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Evista Medication Guide (2007)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: How long should you take certain osteoporosis drugs (2014)

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