Get the best out of your osteoporosis treatment

patient with doctor
People at high risk of fracture need medication to protect themselves from potentially disabling and life-threatening fractures – but no therapy is effective if it is not taken as prescribed.

Although a healthy lifestyle helps to keep bones strong, changes to lifestyle alone will not be enough to prevent fractures in people who are at high risk. If you’ve been identified as being at high risk of fractures, it is likely that your doctor will have prescribed one of several effective treatment options which have been proven to reduce the risk of fracture.

Lack of adherence to osteoporosis medication is a big problem and, unfortunately, up to half of people stop their osteoporosis treatment after only one year.  One reason is that the incentive to remain on osteoporosis treatment is not apparent - unlike with antibiotics or painkillers, you can’t see or feel the benefits of the treatment.

Professor John Kanis, IOF President, recognizes this as a major problem and urges patients to remain on their prescribed treatment and to consult their doctors if they are experiencing problems taking their medication.

It is important to remember that broken bones - the outcome of osteoporosis - can be serious and even life-threatening.Vertebral or hip fractures for example often cause painful, long-term disability which in turn results in loss of quality of life and independence.”

If you are taking medication for osteoporosis, here are some ways in which you can make the most of your treatment:

  • Continue to take your medication regularly for the correct length of time; this will vary from individual to individual. Usually a minimum of five years of treatment is needed, but it may be less depending on your individual circumstances.
  • Follow the instructions with your medication: this will reduce the risk of side effects and help ensure that the drug is absorbed properly.
  • If you have problems or side effects, talk to your doctor to discuss your concerns.
  • Ensure that you are meeting your calcium requirements through your daily diet. If you have been prescribed calcium and vitamin D supplements to complement your therapy, take the supplements as prescribed.
  • It is now considered good practice for doctors to review each patient’s osteoporosis therapy after a number of years. You doctor should assess your bone status and, based on your individual circumstances, advise as to whether the drugs should be continued, changed, or whether you should have a break in your treatment (usually between one and three years).
  • Remember that appropriate weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercise is very important too. It will enhance the benefits of prescribed drug therapy.