Bisphosphonates and Other Hormones
- Bisphosphonates: Other treatments for osteoporosis are available. Bisphosphonate medications taken by mouth include alendronate, risedronate, etidronate; intravenous medications include bisphosphonate, zoledronate (Reclast). These drugs slow down bone loss, and in some cases, they actually increase bone mineral density. Doctors can measure the effects of these drugs by obtaining DXAs every year or two and comparing the measurements. When taking these drugs, it is important to stand or sit upright for 30 minutes after swallowing the medication. This helps decrease the risk of heartburn and ulcers in the esophagus. After taking bisphosphonates, you must wait 30 minutes to ingest food, beverages (except water), and other medications, including vitamins and calcium. Before beginning to take a bisphosphonate, your doctor will determine if you have enough calcium in your blood and if your kidneys are functioning well.
- Alendronate (Fosamax): This medication is used to treat osteoporosis and to prevent bone loss in women. In clinical trials, alendronate has been shown to reduce the risk of new spinal and hip fractures by 50%. Gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, acid reflux symptoms, and constipation, are the most common side effects. You must take this medication first thing in the morning with a large glass of water and not lie down or eat for 30 minutes. Some women find this restriction difficult. This medication is taken daily or once a week.
- Risedronate (Actonel): This medication is used for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. Gastrointestinal upset is the most common side effect. Women with severe kidney impairment should avoid this drug. Results from a recent study showed that daily risedronate use can lead to a significant reduction in new vertebral fractures (62%) and multiple new vertebral fractures (90%) in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, compared with a similar group who did not take this medication.
- Etidronate (Didronel): This drug has been approved by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of Paget disease, another bone condition. Doctors have been using this drug successfully in clinical trials to treat women with osteoporosis.
- Ibandronate (Boniva): This drug is the most recently FDA-approved bisphosphonate and is used to prevent or treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
- Zoledronate (Reclast): This is a powerful intravenous bisphosphonate that is given once a year. This can be especially beneficial for patients who cannot tolerate oral bisphosphonates or are having difficulty with complying with the required regular dosing of oral medications.
- Other hormones: These hormones help regulate calcium and/or phosphate levels in the body and prevent bone loss.
- Calcitonin (Miacalcin): Calcitonin is a hormone (extracted from salmon) that slows bone loss and may increase bone density. You may be given this drug as an injection (every other day or two to three times a week) or as a nasal spray.
- Teriparatide (Forteo): Teriparatide contains a portion of human parathyroid hormone. It primarily regulates calcium and phosphate metabolism in bones, which promotes new bone formation and leads to increased bone density. This drug is given as a daily injection.
For more information, see Understanding Osteoporosis Medications.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/9/2014
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