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Osteoporosis health centre

Osteoporosis - What treatments work for osteoporosis?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you have osteoporosis, your bones are weak and can break easily. But you can get good treatments to slow down this disease and make it less likely that you will break a bone.

Osteoporosis can have serious effects on your health and your life. But there are some good treatments that may stop your bones getting weaker and help you avoid broken bones. There are also things you can do on your own to prevent broken bones.

Most of the studies into these treatments look at how well they work for women who have been through the menopause. Men and younger women with osteoporosis may also be offered the same treatments. But there isn't as much evidence to show how well they work for these people.

Key points about preventing and treating osteoporosis

  • Drugs called alendronate and risedronate work well for osteoporosis. They belong to a group called bisphosphonates.

  • A newer drug from the same group is called ibandronate. You take it only once a month. There is also a bisphosphonate called zoledronic acid that you have as a drip once a year.

  • Bisphosphonate drugs can have side effects. To avoid these, you need to take them as your doctor tells you.

  • If these drugs don't work or you can't take them, other drugs can help. They include raloxifene, teriparatide, and strontium ranelate.

  • We don't know what happens to your bones when you stop taking any of these drugs. There haven't been any studies on this.

  • Your doctor might recommend injections of a newer treatment called denosumab if other treatments haven't worked for you, or if you're at high risk of broken bones.

  • Tablets of calcium and vitamin D are likely to help keep your bones strong, especially if you are low in vitamin D. But you need to take them together.

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT for short) probably helps keep your bones strong too. But it has side effects. So doctors don't usually advise it first for osteoporosis.

Some of these treatments are also used for preventing osteoporosis if you are especially likely to get it. Others are used just for treating it.

In the UK, there are guidelines on who can be treated with osteoporosis drugs on the NHS. For more, see Who can get treatment?

There are many treatments for osteoporosis. But which treatments work best? We've looked at the best research and given a rating for each treatment according to how well it works.

For help in deciding which treatment is best for you, see How to make the best decisions about treatment.

Last Updated: August 06, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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