Osteoporosis: Breaking Down the Treatment Options

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Administration of oral bisphosphonates requires special attention. Oral bisphosphonates must be taken first thing in the morning with water; for the next 30 to 60 minutes, the patient must stay upright and not have any food, drink, or additional medications by mouth. These specifications may affect patient adherence to treatment.

Intravenous bisphosphonates. Depending on the IV bisphosphonate chosen—ibandronate and zoledronic acid are the currently available options—administration is recommended either every three or 12 months. A common adverse effect of IV bisphosphonates is flulike symptoms, which are generally brief in duration. Hypocalcemia has also been associated with IV administration, more so than with oral bisphosphonate use. Osteonecrosis of the jaw, while rare, must also be considered.

CASE POINT Because of Ms. B’s GERD requiring PPI use, oral bisphosphonates are not the most ideal treatment for her osteoporosis; they could exacerbate her gastrointestinal symptoms. IV bisphosphonates are a potential option for her, as this method of administration would eliminate the gastrointestinal risk associated with oral bisphosphonates.

Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), which are administered orally, are another option for osteoporosis treatment for vertebral fractures. One medication in this class, raloxifene, selectively acts on estrogen receptors—it works as an agonist in bone estrogen receptors (preventing bone loss) and an estrogen antagonist in other tissue (eg, breast, uterine). SERMs are not considered firstline treatment for osteoporosis because they appear to be less potent than other currently available agents. However, a postmenopausal patient with a high risk for invasive breast cancer without a history of fragility fracture might consider this option, as raloxifene can reduce the risk for invasive breast cancer.9 SERMs have been associated with an increase in thromboembolic events and hot flashes.

Calcitonin nasal spray is used much less commonly now because its effect on bone mineral density is weaker than other currently available options. Calcitonin nasal spray is administered as one spray in one nostril each day. There has been some concern regarding calcitonin use and its association with malignancy.10

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