Good News for Postmenopausal Bones: Benefits of Osteoporosis Meds Outweigh Risks

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Fewer postmenopausal women are getting treatment for osteoporosis, possibly due to a fear of serious side effects like atypical thigh bone fractures and jaw bone damage called osteonecrosis, which have been linked to bisphosphonates (Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, and Zometa) used to treat osteoporosis. And this is a big gamble, experts say.

About half of all postmenopausal women will experience a broken bone due to osteoporosis at some point, and women who break a bone are at higher risk of subsequent fractures. Because fewer women are being treated, a pattern of declines in rates of postmenopausal hip fractures has leveled off in recent years.

The Endocrine Society wants to reassure postmenopausal women, especially those at high-risk due to family or medical history, that osteoporosis treatment has more pluses than minuses. New practice guidelines issued by the Society and published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism provide information about the newest, most effective medication options and answer questions women may have about their treatment.

The new guidelines, based on a review of clinical studies on osteoporosis treatment, suggest postmenopausal women at high risk of fractures, including those who’ve had a recent break, should be treated with bisphosphonates or denosumab. After three to five years, fracture risk should be reassessed. Women who remain at high risk should continue therapy, and those at low-to-moderate risk of fractures can discontinue treatment until their next assessment.

Check with your doctor to see if you should be evaluated for osteoporosis risk.