Fractures that occur as a result of osteoporosis are associated with significant morbidity, mortality, and cost. A treatment regimen consisting of both nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic interventions can be used to decrease the risk of fracture. Nonpharmacologic interventions include calcium and vitamin D supplementation, weight-bearing exercise, muscle strengthening, and fall prevention. Pharmacologic options include: the bisphosphonates, estrogen therapy, raloxifene, salmon calcitonin, and the anabolic agent teriparatide. Although bone mineral density is used clinically to diagnose osteoporosis, it is of limited value when evaluating pharmacologic treatment; the primary indicator of treatment efficacy is fracture risk reduction. The bisphosphonates are the preferred therapy for osteoporosis. Studies have demonstrated that in postmenopausal women, both risedronate and alendronate are associated with reductions in vertebral and nonvertebral fracture risk. The newest approved bisphosphonate, ibandronate, reduces vertebral fracture risk. Studies also support a reduction in fracture risk when alendronate and risedronate are used in men with osteoporosis and patients with corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis. When used appropriately, the bisphosphonates are well tolerated. Estrogen and raloxifene decrease fracture risk in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis but are associated with thromboembolic events. Use of estrogen therapy is also limited by concerns about the safety of this type of therapy. Although the anabolic agent teriparatide is associated with reductions in vertebral and nonvertebral fractures, its use has been limited by the necessity of subcutaneous administration and its cost relative to other agents. Regardless of which treatment regimen is selected, health care providers need to emphasize the importance of compliance and adherence to improve persistence with therapy, and subsequent fracture reduction efficacy.
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