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    Calcitonin for Osteoporosis


    Generic Name Brand Name
    calcitonin Fortical, Miacalcin

    How It Works

    Calcitonin is a naturally occurring hormone. It helps regulate calcium levels in your body and is involved in the process of bone building. When taken by shot or nasal spray, it slows the rate of bone thinning. It also relieves pain that occurs when the bones in the spine (vertebrae) break and collapse on top of each other (spinal compression fracture).

    Why It Is Used

    Calcitonin is used in women with osteoporosis to help reduce bone loss.

    It may be prescribed for women who are more than 5 years beyond menopause and who do not tolerate bisphosphonate medicines.

    Calcitonin may be used in men with osteoporosis who have normal levels of the male sex hormone testosterone or whose osteoporosis does not get better with testosterone treatment.

    Calcitonin may relieve pain caused by spinal compression fractures.

    How Well It Works

    Calcitonin slows thinning of bone, and may help relieve pain from broken bones caused by osteoporosis.1 It may also decrease the risk of fractures in the spine.2

    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.

    Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

    Call your doctor if you have:

    Common side effects include:

    Common side effects of injected calcitonin include:

    • Nausea with or without vomiting.
    • Skin irritation at the injection site.
    • Skin redness (flushing).

    Common side effects of nasal calcitonin include:

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

    What To Think About

    It may take up to 2 weeks before pain relief is noticed. Not all people who take calcitonin get relief from their pain.

    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.


    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)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


    1. Drugs for postmenopausal osteoporosis (2011). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 9(111): 67-74.

    2. Vestergaard P, et al. (2011). Fracture prevention in postmenopausal women, search date September 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online:

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerCarla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine

    Current as ofNovember 14, 2014

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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