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Osteoporosis Medicines: 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

  • Belly (abdominal) pain

  • Bone or muscle pain

Taking bisphosphonates pills

Always read medicine information closely. You should not take bisphosphonates if you currently have upper gastrointestinal disease. 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 1 hour before any food, drink, or other medicines.

  • 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 healthcare provider to find out which one is right for you. 

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.