Does Treatment Help Once You Have Osteoporosis?

Even if you already have osteoporosis, many medicines can help prevent bone loss and rebuild bone. They also may lower your chances for dangerous breaks in bones, or "fractures."

The drugs work by preventing or lessening a bone break. There are a few types:

Bisphosphonates

These medications may make osteoporosis-related breaks in bones less likely, but they don’t all work the same. Some are better at preventing certain types of broken bones than others. You also take them in a variety of ways -- by pill, injection, or through an IV. Talk with your doctor about which of these might be best for you.

These drugs are generally safe. Still, it’s important to talk about your treatment and any potential risks with your doctor.

Estrogen Therapy

This type of osteoporosis treatment works well in decreasing bone loss and reducing hip and spine fractures, but it comes with a number of very serious drawbacks. While it replaces the estrogen levels that drop drastically during menopause, it may also raise your chances for blood clots, heart attack, breast cancer, and stroke. The FDA recommends that you try other osteoporosis drugs first.

SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators)

These medicines give you the benefits of estrogen therapy without many of the drawbacks. Raloxifene (Evista) is the only SERM approved to treat osteoporosis. It may reduce the risk of spine fractures, but it doesn’t seem to help prevent breaks in other bones.

Building Bones

Bone-forming medications are designed to do just what they say. Instead of just slowing or stopping the process of bone breakdown, they work to build more of it. Abaloparatide (Tymlos) and teriparatide (Forteo) is the only medicines of this type approved by the FDA.

In women, they help reduce fractures of the spine and in the hands and feet. They're also approved for men with low testosterone levels and men with osteoporosis caused by steroids. With either drug, you have to inject it daily, and the treatment is expensive.

Continued

Not for Everyone

If bisphosphonates don’t work for you, denosumab (Prolia, Xgeva) is another option. If you’re at high risk for fractures, this may work for you. It strengthens bones throughout the body. It’s a twice-yearly injection.

Older Drugs

Calcitonin drugs, like Miacalcin and Fortical, have been around since the 1980s. They help prevent bone loss and reduce spinal fractures, but don’t seem to do much in other parts of the body. You can take it as a daily nasal spray or by injection. Most doctors don’t consider these drugs a first option in treating the disease because they are not as effective as other treatments and they may increase risk of certain cancers.

There are many different options for treatment and prevention, whether you already have the disease or are at high risk for it. If one drug doesn't work well for you, another may. Talk with your doctor about your choices.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 26, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Department of Health and Human Services: "Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2004."

National Osteoporosis Foundation.

FDA.

National Women’s Health Network: “Osteoporosis—Fact Sheet.”

Harvard Medical School: “Osteoporosis Drugs: Which One Is Right for You?”

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