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Denosumab for Osteoporosis


Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
denosumabProlia

Denosumab is injected under the skin, usually every 6 months.

How It Works

Denosumab slows the formation and action of cells called osteoclasts. These are the cells that naturally break down bone. By slowing down the osteoclasts, denosumab allows bone to become more dense (thicker).

Why It Is Used

Denosumab is used to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women who are at high risk for breaking a bone.

How Well It Works

In one large study denosumab was given to women every 6 months for 3 years. These women were compared to women who received a shot of liquid that did not contain the medicine (placebo). The women who were given denosumab had much less risk of breaking a bone, such as a spine or hipbone, than the women who were given the placebo.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Callor other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Signs of infection such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the injection site.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
    • A fever.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Problems with bone healing, particularly after dental surgery, have been found in some people taking denosumab. If you are taking denosumab and need dental surgery, talk with your doctor.

If you are taking denosumab, you should also take calcium and vitamin D supplements.

People who have very low calcium (hypocalcemia) should not take denosumab.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Cummings SR, et al. (2010). Denosumab for prevention of fracture in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(8): 756–765.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerCarla J. Herman, MD, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Last RevisedNovember 10, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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