Osteoporosis drug treatments

Drug treatments for osteoporosis help to strengthen our bones and reduce our risk of having fractures. They are not given to help with the pain that can occur when bones break.

Most drug treatments for osteoporosis work by slowing down the activity of the cells that break down old bone (osteoclasts). These are known as ‘antiresorptive’ drugs. Some treatments stimulate the cells that build new bone (osteoblasts). These are known as ‘anabolic’ drugs. Other options have less well-understood ways of working, that might combine both of these.

The main aim of osteoporosis drug treatments is to decrease the risk of breaking bones, and drugs are licensed on the basis that they do this. Sometimes, treatments will also show an increase in bone density.

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  • Bisphosphonates
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Development of new osteoporosis drugs

Should I take an osteoporosis drug?

Health professionals will usually recommend a drug treatment if we have osteoporosis and have a high risk of fractures.

This recommendation is usually made on the basis of a fracture risk assessment, which will have established if our risk of breaking a bone in the next 10 years is significantly raised.

Besides the recommendation of a health professional, there are a number of factors that may affect your choice of treatment – or whether to take a treatment at all – such as the way we feel about taking a drug treatment for our bones, their side-effects and associated long-term risks.

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  • Which osteoporosis drug should I take?
  • Which type of drug will suit me: tablet, drink, injection or infusion ‘drip’?
  • How long should I take a drug for?
  • Will there be any side effects?
  • Are there any long-term risks?
  • Osteoporosis drugs don’t fit with my personal health beliefs

Getting the most out of your drug treatment

Taking your osteoporosis drugs as prescribed and following the instructions carefully will help you get the most from your medication.

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  • Get enough medicine to make a difference
  • Take your drug treatment correctly
  • Make sure your osteoporosis drug is properly absorbed
  • Make sure you get all the nutrients your bones need
  • Be confident your drug treatment is working