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Taking a Drug for Osteoporosis

There is very consistent and strong evidence that osteoporosis treatments decrease the risk of fractures by 30-70% in postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis (very low bone density or previous spine fractures). In these patients at high risk of fracture, the benefits of taking a drug are clearly far greater than the possible risks. However, the benefit of these drugs for women who do not have osteoporosis is less. As always, you should balance out the risks and benefits of any treatment. 

No drug is perfectly safe, including drugs like aspirin, penicillin or even calcium supplements. Dr. Michael McClung uses flying to illustrate risk versus benefit: “As in other parts of life, the likeliness of a benefit of any action has to be weighed against the risks of an unwanted affect. Flying to get to Europe has a great benefit compared to the alternatives but is associated with frequent mild side-effects (jet lag, losing luggage) and with rare but serious or even fatal consequences (blood clots in the legs or lungs). Thus, to get the benefit of flying, one is exposed to a known set of risks. Deciding about taking any drug has to be considered in the same context. Drugs should not be avoided just because of a possible risk if the benefit of taking the drug far outweighs the likelihood of complications.”

Only you and your doctor can decide on your treatment plan. If you are at high risk for fracture, starting and continuing treatment with an FDA-approved anti-osteoporosis drug is very likely indicated.

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The American Bone Health Fracture Risk Calculator™ estimates fracture risk for women and men over age 45.

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