Decision Assist

Osteoporosis medications


The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether osteoporosis medication is right for you. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

This tool is not a substitute for professional medical care and advice. Work with your doctor to help you make this decision. A second opinion from another doctor may be valuable. Medication always has potential side effects, and you should be fully informed about the risks and benefits of this type of medication. There is usually no exact "right" or "wrong" answer.

Your doctor may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to use this medication rests with you.

What is the medication?

Osteoporosis is the most common type of bone disease. Osteoporosis happens when your bone tissue becomes thin and fragile as you age or as a result of disease or medication. The weakened bones can break easily, especially in the hip. Such fractures, when they occur later in life, can make a person disabled and unable to perform daily activities.


Several types of medications treat osteoporosis. They vary in their side effects, benefits, and costs. One type is bisphosphonates. These medicines can both prevent and treat osteoporosis. They include the drugs Fosamax, Actonel, and Boniva, and Zometa. This tool focuses on deciding whether to take bisphosphonates.

Other medication options include raloxifene, calcitonin, and hormone replacement therapy. They will be briefly discussed at the end of this tool, but are not the focus. Discuss all of your options with your doctor.

Key points

Calcium benefit

Click the icon to learn about the benefits of calcium.

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide

Review Date: 9/19/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

  • Management of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: 2006 position statement of The North American Menopause Society. Menopause. 2006 May-Jun;13(3):340-67.
  • MacLean C, Newberry S, et al. Systematic review: comparative effectiveness of treatments to prevent fractures in men and women with low bone density or osteoporosis. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(3): 197-213.
  • Clinician’s Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Published online February 21, 2008.
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