Drugs used in the treatment of metabolic bone disease. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutic use

Drugs. 1993 Oct;46(4):594-617. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199346040-00003.


Osteoporosis is the most important metabolic bone disease and places an increasing burden on the healthcare system. The condition can be prevented by the early introduction of hormone replacement therapy. The role of bisphosphonates in achieving the same result is being actively explored. The attraction of preventing bone loss is that it preserves the micro-architecture of bone, and therefore its mechanical integrity. The great problem of treating the established condition is that substantial bone loss is accompanied by architectural disintegration. Replacing lost bone may not necessarily restore mechanical integrity and protect against fractures. The management of Paget's disease has been quite revolutionised by the introduction of the bisphosphonates. The condition is a result of a primary increase in osteoclastic bone resorption which can be corrected by bisphosphonates, with considerable symptomatic improvement. The increasing potency and safety margin of the newer agents has meant that the threshold for treatment has fallen. There is now potential for long term control of bone turnover with the hope of preventing late complications. Hypercalcaemia of malignancy is usually the result of both increased bone destruction and decreased urinary calcium excretion. These two components of hypercalcaemia demand different approaches to management. The general availability of an ever-expanding range of increasingly potent bisphosphonates has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the treatment of increased bone resorption associated with malignancy. Many types of tumour, either directly or indirectly, compromise the ability of the kidney to eliminate a calcium load derived from increased bone destruction. Calcitonin is the only agent which is currently available to counter this process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcitonin / therapeutic use*
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use*
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercalcemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypercalcemia / etiology
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Osteitis Deformans / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy*


  • Diphosphonates
  • Estrogens
  • Calcitonin