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Osteoporosis Medications: Bisphosphonates

Depending on your needs, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines to prevent or treat osteoporosis.

Senior woman taking pill with water.


Several medicines make up the class of drugs known as bisphosphonates. Bisphosphonates are the most common type of medicine used to help prevent and treat bone loss. Bisphosphonates are given in pill or injectable form as an IV infusion. They must be taken exactly as directed. Benefits may include:

  • Reducing bone loss

  • Increasing bone density in the hip and spine

  • Reducing risk of fractures in the spine, hip, and wrist

Side effects may include:

  • Heartburn

  • Nausea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Bone or muscle pain

Taking bisphosphonates pills

Always read medicine information closely. Certain bisphosphonates must be taken:

  • On an empty stomach.

  • With a full glass of water (8 oz) first thing in the morning.

  • At least 30 minutes to one hour before any food, drink, or other medications.

  • While sitting or standing. You should not lie down for at least 30 minutes after taking the medicine.

Newer medicines can be taken weekly or monthly. Talk with your doctor to find out which one is right for you. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Banerjee, Rahul, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Last Review Date: 10/11/2015
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