Insights from a Pharmacist About Osteoporosis Treatments
When you go to the doctor and are diagnosed with a new disease or illness, you may have a lot of questions. One diagnosis that has become increasingly common is osteoporosis, a disease where your bones begin to weaken. If your doctor diagnoses you with osteoporosis, your pharmacist can be a great source of information, especially if your doctor prescribes you a new medication or tells you to start taking certain over-the-counter (OTC) supplements. Your pharmacist can help you decide which supplements to take, what time of day is best to take certain medications, and answer questions about what a diagnosis of osteoporosis might mean.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones weaken over time, and may break more easily than healthy bones. Osteoporosis is a chronic condition, which means that it is ongoing and generally lasts long term.
Osteoporosis is a common condition found in postmenopausal women, and men and women over the age of 50. Postmenopausal women should be routinely evaluated for osteoporosis.
The standard test that can diagnose osteoporosis is called a DEXA scan. It is a type of x-ray scan that measures bone mineral density.
What vitamins and minerals are good for bone strength?
Your doctor may recommend an OTC supplement to help prevent your bones from weakening further. There are several vitamins and minerals that have been shown to help strengthen bones and are often recommended to help prevent or slow osteoporosis. To learn more about supplements, read this SafeMedication.com article about using supplements wisely.
The two of the most common OTC supplements recommended to improve bone health are vitamin D and calcium.
Calcium is an important mineral for building bone strength, and vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and improves the uptake of calcium into bone. Patients with osteoporosis should make sure they have a normal or adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D. Talk to your pharmacist if you have questions about what your recommended dose should be.
Both vitamin D and calcium supplements can be purchased at your pharmacy.
What prescription medications treat osteoporosis?
Depending on how strong or weak your bones are, your doctor may write a prescription for a medication to help stop your osteoporosis from progressing. Several different types of medications are prescribed for osteoporosis. Some of these medications are taken by mouth, some are injected, and some are given as an infusion at a doctor’s office or infusion center.
Prescription medications include:
Bisphosphonates: Some of these medications, and alendronate (Binosto, Fosamax), are taken by mouth, on an empty stomach, and sitting up; other medications such as zoledronic acid (Reclast, Zometa) are given by infusion.
Monoclonal antibodies: Medications such as denosumab (Prolia, Xgeva) are injected by a healthcare provider and usually given once every 6 months.
Parathyroid hormone analogs: Abaloparatide (Tymlos) are given once daily by injection.
Estrogen receptor modulators: Raloxifene (Evista) and conjugated estrogens/bazedoxifene are tablets.
With any of these medications, it is important to understand how often to take them. Some of these medications must be filled using a specialty pharmacy or may require a prior authorization. Always ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about how to fill your medications.
What questions should I ask my pharmacist about medications and supplements for osteoporosis?
- What time of day should I take this medication?
- Which OTC supplements should I take?
- What are the potential side effects of taking OTC supplements or prescription medications?
- Are there any foods I should avoid with this medication?
- Is there a way to make my medication more affordable?
- How will I know if the OTC supplement or prescription medication is working?
- When am I due for my next dose of this medication?
- What do I do if I miss a dose?
Your pharmacist is trained as a medication expert, and that includes both prescription and OTC medications. Being diagnosed with osteoporosis may mean that your doctor suggests you start taking new medications to keep your bones strong and prevent them from weakening further, so it is important to talk to your pharmacist to learn more. Your pharmacist can answer questions about how new medications work in your body, how to take them, and what to do if you start to notice any side effects.