There is a medical need for an agent with the positive effects of estrogen on bone and the cardiovascular system, but without the negative effects on reproductive tissue. Raloxifene (LY139481 HCI) is a benzothiophene derivative that binds to the estrogen receptor and inhibits the effects of estrogen on the uterus. In an ovariectomized (OVX) rat model we investigated the effects of raloxifene on bone loss (induced by estrogen deficiency), serum lipids, and uterine tissue. After oral administration of raloxifene for 5 wk (0.1-10 mg/kg per d) to OVX rats, bone mineral density in the distal femur and proximal tibia was significantly greater than that observed in OVX controls (ED50 of 0.03-0.3 mg/kg). Serum cholesterol was lower in the raloxifene-treated animals, which had a minimal effective dose of 0.1 mg/kg and an approximate oral ED50 of 0.2 mg/kg. The effects of raloxifene on bone and serum cholesterol were comparable to those of a 0.1-mg/kg per d oral dose of ethynyl estradiol. Raloxifene diverged dramatically from estrogen in its lack of significant estrogenic effects on uterine tissue. Ethynyl estradiol produced a marked elevation in a number of uterine histologic parameters (e.g., epithelial cell height, stromal eosinophilia). These data suggest that raloxifene has promise as an agent with beneficial bone and cardiovascular effects in the absence of significant uterine effects.