Osteoporosis Medicines: Hormones, SERMs, and Calcitonin

Doctor handing prescription to woman.You are being advised to take a medicine to prevent or treat osteoporosis. You may be given more than one. This depends on your needs. Below you can read about the different types. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy can ease symptoms of postmenopause. It may also be used to help keep bone density. It may be in pill or skin patch form.

Benefits may include:

  • Reducing bone loss and risk of a break or fracture

  • Increasing bone density in the hip and spine

Side effects may include:

  • Nausea

  • Breakthrough bleeding, bloating, and weight gain

  • Breast soreness

  • High blood pressure

  • Increased risk of blood clots in the legs and of certain cancers


Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) act on estrogen in the body. They come in pill form.

Benefits may include:

  • Increasing bone density in the hip and spine

  • Preventing bone loss

  • Reducing risk of spinal fracture

Side effects may include:

  • Hot flashes

  • Leg cramps

  • Increased risk of blood clots in the legs

This treatment is only approved for postmenopausal women.


Calcitonin is a hormone. It comes in a nasal spray. It can be used in place of the other medicines. But it may not be as effective. And it does not prevent osteoporosis.

Benefits may include:

  • Slowing bone loss

  • Increasing bone density in the spine

Side effects may include:

  • Swelling, soreness, or irritation inside the nose

  • Nasal congestion and runny nose

Online Medical Reviewer: Banerjee, Rahul, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2018
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