Drugs for Osteopenia
Depending on your situation, particularly if you have already broken a bone, your doctor may prescribe medication to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and further fractures. Medications that may be used for osteopenia or prevention of osteoporosis in these cases include:
- Bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are medications that slow the natural process that breaks down bone, which results in maintenance or a small increase of bone density. Bisphosphonates are the main drugs used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. This class of drugs includes Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, and Reclast. Most bisphosphonates are taken by mouth, usually once a week or once a month. Reclast is given by injection, usually once a year.
- Hormone replacement therapy. Once a popular therapy for preventing bone loss, hormone replacement therapy is rarely used for that purpose anymore, because it has been found to increase the risk for deep venous thrombosis (blood clots in the leg), pulmonary embolus (blood clots in the lung), and other health problems. Sometimes, if hormone replacement has been helpful for easing a woman's menopausal symptoms, her doctor may recommend continuing it for bone loss, too. If you are considering hormone replacement therapy to prevent osteoporosis, speak with your doctor about the potential risks.
- Parathyroid hormone. Forteo, a portion of hormone made by your parathyroid glands, is the first agent to stimulate the formation of new bone. It is approved for women and men and is given daily by a shot beneath the skin.
- Evista. Similar to the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, this drug is used to prevent and treat osteoporosis. It may also be protective against heart disease and breast cancer; however, more studies are needed to confirm its protective effect. It is taken by mouth once a day.
Natural Treatments for Osteopenia
Although your doctor may recommend medications if you have already broken a bone, there are a number of nutritional supplements and herbs women with osteopenia may try to promote stronger bones. The main ones are calcium and vitamin D supplements. If you aren't getting enough calcium in your diet and don't spend much time in the sun, speak to your doctor about these supplements. Calcium is an important mineral needed to make bone. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium. Most adults should get between 1,000 and 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 400 and 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily.
Evidence is limited, but other nutritional supplements that may potentially help strengthen bones include:
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish
- Folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
Herbs that might be helpful include:
- Black cohosh
- Red clover
Talk to your doctor about herbal and nutritional supplements before taking them.