If you’re suffering from osteoporosis or osteopenia (precursor to osteoporosis), your doctor may prescribe drugs to help treat bone loss. Keep in mind even though these drugs may help prevent bone loss, they cannot cure it.
If you’re interested in the various drugs available by prescription, here’s the scoop:
- Actonel (Risedronate): This is usually taken once a week on an empty stomach and is not a hormone drug. The most common side effect is an upset stomach. You are never supposed to take it with anything other than plain water. This means no tea, coffee, milk, juice, mineral water, sparkling water, or sodas. Serious side effects include blisters on skin, hives, swollen gums, loose teeth, jaw problems, and chest pains.
- Boniva (IbandronateSodium): Boniva came on the market in April 2005. It is usually taken once a month, although there is also a daily option. Similar to Actonel it is not a hormone drug. Boniva is supposed to help build bones, and, it has several common side effects, including upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, and heartburn. Other less common side effects include damage to the esophagus, mouth sores (if not taken correctly), gum, teeth, and jaw problems. You are never supposed to take it with anything other than plain water.
- Calcimar or Miacalcin (Calcintonin): It is a hormone drug and can reduce pain associated with osteoporosis. It is taken nasal or by injection, and is taken either once a day or every other day. The most common side effect with this drug is nausea. Other side effects include sinus pain, joint pain, feeling warm, difficulty breathing, itching, hives, rash, or swelling of the tongue or throat.
- Evista (Raloxifene): This is not a hormone drug, but it does mimic estrogen. It is usually taken once a day with or without food. A common side effect is hot flashes. This drug also increases your risk for blood clots in the legs and lungs. You’re supposed to stop taking this medication three days before surgery, and if you have a risk for coronary artery disease, this medication can cause serious or fatal strokes. If you have any of the following problems you stop taking Evista and immediately call your doctor: leg pain; feeling of warmth in the lower leg; swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs; sudden chest pain; shortness of breath; coughing up blood; or sudden changes in vision, such as loss of vision or blurred vision.
- Forteo (Teriparatide): This is a daily injectable synthetic hormone and is supposed to cause new bone growth. Side effects for this include leg cramps, dizziness, and nausea. This drug is also known to cause osteosarcoma (cancer of the bone) in rats. This drug should only be taken if you are at high risk for fractures, if you’ve had a bone fracture, or if other osteoporosis drugs have been unsuccessful.
- Fosamax (Alendronate): This drug is similar to Actonel in that it is not a hormone drug. It is taken once a week on an empty stomach, and like Actonel and Boniva it should only be taken with plain water. The most common side effect is upset stomach. Other side effects include worsening heartburn, swelling of eyes, face, lips, tongue, or throat, gum, teeth, and jaw problems, rashes, blisters, or chest pain.
I have not listed all the side effects for each drug, only the highlights or more serious problems. If you want more information on a drug, contact your pharmacy or read the information sheet attached to your prescription. If you want to see what patients had to say about a drug, visit Askapatient: The site lists over 2500 drugs. You type in the drug’s name, and users rate their experience with the drug and can also enter informational comments. If you experience any adverse side effects from any of the drugs listed above, you or your doctor can report these problems by calling 1-800-332-1088 or contacting the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting.