Prescription drug therapies for prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis

J Manag Care Pharm. 2006 Jul;12(6 Suppl A):S10-9; quiz S26-8. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2006.12.S6-A.S10.


Objective: To characterize the changes in bone mass with age in women and men, explain the physiology and pathophysiology of the bone remodeling process, identify the targets for prescription osteoporosis drugs in this process, and provide details about the uses, efficacy, safety, and economics of prescription drug therapies for osteoporosis prevention and treatment.

Background: Preventing accelerated bone loss and decreasing age-related decreases in bone density are the primary goals of prescription drug therapy for osteoporosis. Bisphosphonates are the drugs of choice for preventing and treating postmenopausal osteoporosis. Alternatives for patients who cannot take bisphosphonates include raloxifene and calcitonin salmon.

Summary: Menopause is accompanied by a rapid loss in bone mass that is followed by annual losses due to aging in women, which are similar to age-related bone mass decreases in men. Most prescription drug therapies for osteoporosis prevention or treatment reduce bone resorption by inhibiting osteoclast activation and activity, with only one medication class able to increase bone formation by stimulating osteoblasts. Denosumab, an investigational monoclonal antibody that inhibits nuclear factor kB ligand, would be a new class of anti-resorptive medications. Bisphosphonates currently are the drugs of choice for preventing and treating osteoporosis, with 7- and 10-year safety data available for risedronate and alendronate, respectively. Weekly and monthly regimens of bisphosphonates improve patient acceptance. Recently, an injectable form of ibandronate received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for once every 3 months administration. Raloxifene and calcitonin salmon are alternatives for patients who cannot take bisphosphonates because of contraindications or adverse effects. Teriparatide, a recombinant parathyroid hormone fragment, not only increases bone mineral density but also increases bone connectivity.

Conclusions: Osteoporosis medications are usually safe, especially if used correctly with proper patient education. Treating osteopenia has not been found to be cost effective in women. However, obtaining a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan and treating osteoporosis has resulted in cost savings in senior women living in community and nursing home residences. Pharmacists have multiple opportunities for preventing and treating osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / pharmacology
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / drug therapy
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / economics
  • Bone Remodeling / physiology
  • Denosumab
  • Diphosphonates / pharmacology
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / prevention & control*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pharmacists
  • Professional Role
  • RANK Ligand
  • Sex Factors


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Diphosphonates
  • RANK Ligand
  • Denosumab