In brief: First once-a-month osteoporosis pill approved

In brief

First once-a-month osteoporosis pill approved

Published: March, 2014

In spring 2005, the FDA approved the first drug for treating and preventing osteoporosis that can be taken in one monthly dose. The drug, ibandronate (Boniva), belongs to a class of antiresorptive agents called bisphosphonates, which increase bone density by slowing the rate of bone loss. Low bone density raises the risk of osteoporosis, a condition of bone fragility that affects more than eight million women in the United States. Denser bones mean less risk of fracture. Other oral bisphosphonates are risedronate (Actonel) and alendronate (Fosamax), available in once-weekly formulations.

A daily-dose version of Boniva was approved in 2003, but its makers, F. Hoffman-LaRoche and GlaxoSmithKline, delayed releasing it until they could offer a once-a-month version. Bisphosphonates are generally well tolerated, but they can irritate the esophagus and stomach, causing heartburn and nausea. Side effects may be less common with fewer doses, although remembering to take a drug at such widely spaced intervals may be a challenge.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »