Medicines for osteoporosis


  • Osteoporosis medicines work by
    • slowing the breakdown of bone (antiresorptives), or
    • increasing the production of new bone (anabolic medicines).
  • As a result, they increase your bone strength and reduce your chances of fracture.

Osteoporosis medicines work either by slowing down bone loss (these are called antiresorptives) or by increasing the amount of bone that is made (these are called anabolic medicines).

Antiresorptives are the most commonly prescribed medicines for treating osteoporosis. Antiresorptives include the group known as bisphosphonates (with active ingredients such as alendronate, risedronate, zoledronic acid), as well as denosumab, and raloxifene.

One anabolic medicine (teriparatide) is used to treat people with severe osteoporosis.

Another medicine called strontium ranelate has been shown to work by slowing down bone loss and increasing bone formation.

In certain instances hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is also an option for some postmenopausal women. Your doctor will carefully consider the risks and benefits and duration of treatment on an individual basis for HRT.

How do I take my medicine for osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis medicines, like all medicines, have instructions about how they should be used. Following these instructions is important to make sure you get the full benefit and avoid any side effects that might occur with incorrect use.

This is particularly important since most people will need to use osteoporosis medicines for a long time – 5 years or more (with the exception of HRT, where Osteoporosis Australia advises that HRT should be used as a short-term treatment of up to 5 years for women below the age of 60).1

It can take between 6 and 12 months before osteoporosis medicines start to reduce your risk of fractures, so it is important to take your medicines for as long as your health professional advises. Also, some other medicines (including calcium supplements) and foods may interfere with your oral osteoporosis medicine and stop it from being properly absorbed.

Your health professional will usually give you this information, either verbally or written on the pharmacist's label. If you are not sure what to do, it's worth asking.

For more information, see the consumer medicine information (CMI) for your brand of medicine, available on our Medicines search page or from your pharmacist or doctor.

The CMI includes:

  • how to take this medicine
  • what to do if you forget to take it
  • if you take too much (overdose)
  • things you must and must not do while taking this medicine.

Find out more

  1. Osteoporosis Australia. Hormone replacement therapy and osteoporosis. 2012 [Online] (accessed 19 August 2015).