Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are steps you can take to prevent, slow or stop its progress. In some cases, you may even be able to improve bone density and reverse the disorder to some degree. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D are essential to bone health. There are also medications available to reduce the risk of broken bones. These medicines either (1) slow or stop bone loss or (2) rebuild bone.
Treatment with Osteoporosis Medication
There are many things to think about when choosing the right osteoporosis medicine. You and your healthcare provider may want to look at:
Calcitonin (Fortical® and Miacalcin®), estrogen and hormone therapies, and estrogen agonists/antagonists (Evista®) are only approved for women. Some bisphosphonates (Actonel® , Atelvia®, Fosamax® and Reclast®), denosumab (Prolia®) and teriparatide (Forteo®) are approved for both men and women.
Some medicines may be more appropriate for younger postmenopausal women while others are more appropriate for older women.
In general, osteoporosis medicines are not recommended for premenopausal women. Certain osteoporosis medicines are approved for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in premenopausal women as a result of the long-term use of steroid medicines. In very rare cases, healthcare providers may recommend that some premenopausal women consider taking an osteoporosis medicine if they’ve had a broken bone caused by low bone density or have experienced bone loss from a rare medical condition.
How severe your osteoporosis is
Osteoporosis medicines work in different ways. A person with more severe bone loss or a broken bone may take a different medicine than a person with less bone loss. Other health problems you may have. Your healthcare provider will consider other health problems you have when recommending a medicine. If you have had breast cancer or blood clots, for example, you should not take estrogen. Also, if your bones have been exposed to radiation treatment, you should not take teriparatide (Forteo®).
Personal preference. Do you prefer a pill, liquid or IV medicine or one that is given as a nasal spray or an injection? Does it work better for you to take your medicine every day, once a week, once a month, several times a year or even once a year? Do you have negative feelings about a particular drug? Any of these factors could influence your treatment decision. It’s also important to keep in mind that no two people are the same. How well a medicine works, or what side effects it will have, can vary from one person to the next.
Paying for Medications and Understanding Your Health Insurance
Paying for Your Medication
Osteoporosis medications require a prescription from your healthcare provider. How much your insurance company pays for your osteoporosis medication depends on the type of insurance plan you have. You may be required to pay a certain amount of money or a co-pay for your osteoporosis medications. Most insurance companies list the prescription medications they are approved to pay for either in part or in full. To find out what your insurance company covers, call or check their website.
Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit
Medicare pays for prescription medications through the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, also called “Part D”. This benefit is available to everyone with Medicare and may help lower the cost of your prescription drugs. If you’d like Part D drug benefits, you must sign up between three months before and three months after your 65th birthday, or between November 15th and December 31st of each year.
Review the 2016 Medicare Prescription Drug Annual Open Enrollment Q&A for answers to important questions that will help you during the Annual Open Enrollment Period.
Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS)
If you have Medicare and limited income and resources, the Social Security Administration (SSA) may help you pay the costs of your Medicare prescription drug plan. SSA can also help you find organizations in your community that may help you to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan. Contact tSSA at 1-800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance
The PPA recently celebrated its 10th anniversary of helping connect uninsured or underinsured Americans to programs that provide prescription medicines for free or nearly free. In order to provide patients and caregivers with faster, easier access to information for more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs, PPA recently launched a redesigned website. The modernized website has information on how uninsured patients can access health care coverage along with interactive content on how to improve health for patients of all ages. The new website also includes information on more than 100,000 free health care clinics throughout the United States.
For additional information on the PPA, call 1-888-477-2669 or visit the new website. For real-time information on PPA and other consumer health initiatives, read the PPA blog and follow the program @PPArx on Twitter. Download this fact sheet to learn more about PPA.
RxAssist is a nationally recognized, web based medication assistance resource center. You can search the RXAssist website to see what discounts or assistance programs are available for the medications you take.
Another resource is www.NeedyMeds.com, which provides information on Medicare state programs and more.
And finally, the Patient Advocate Foundation provides assistance to certain insured patients who qualify. To find out if you are eligible, visit www.copays.org or call the Patient Advocate Foundation toll free at: (866) 512-3861.
For more information, please download Patient Tools: What You Need to Know about Paying for Your Osteoporosis Medications.
Medications Given by a Healthcare Professional
Most insurance companies cover medications given by a healthcare professional in a medical office or hospital. The amount you pay for the prescribed medication is different from what you might pay for a medication you pick up at the pharmacy. If your doctor prescribes an osteoporosis medication that must be given in a healthcare provider’s office through an intravenous infusion or injection, check with your health care provider to find out how much of the cost they will cover.
Types of medication given in a healthcare provider’s office may include ibandronate (Boniva®), denosumab (Prolia®), zoledronic acid (Reclast®) and sometimes Calcitonin (Miacalcin®).
FDA Warning: Buying Medication Online
While many people shop online for their medicines to save money, the FDA warns that the practice is risky and may actually cost more than the generic medications that are available at pharmacies in the U.S.
For those who buy medication online without a prescription, the FDA stresses that taking a prescription medicine without a prescription is unsafe. People taking prescription medicines need to be monitored by a healthcare provider. With some medicines, a person’s life can be at risk without proper monitoring.
Safety concerns about buying medicines online include:
- Medicines may be counterfeit (fake) or a different medicine than was ordered.
- Medicines may be made under conditions that are not clean or sterile.
- Medicines may contain harmful substances.
- Labels may not have information that is needed for the medicine to be used safely.
- Doses may be different from those used in the U.S.
- The FDA provides guidelines to help people decide whether a website selling medicines is safe. Websites selling medicines should:
- Be located in the U.S.
- Be licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the Web site is operating. Visit www.nabp.info for a list of state boards of pharmacy.
- Have a licensed pharmacist available to personally answer questions.
- Require a prescription from your doctor or other healthcare provider who is licensed to prescribe medicines.
- Provide contact or customer service information.
The FDA recommends looking for the VIPPS® Seal on Web sites selling medicines. Legitimate pharmacies that carry the VIPPS® seal are listed at www.vipps.info. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) gives a seal of approval to Internet pharmacy sites that apply and meet state licensure requirements and other VIPPS® requirements. VIPPS® stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites.
For additional information, read the FDA’s article on The Possible Dangers of Buying Medicine Online. Read this article.
Resources–Show More +
My Bone Health History Card
FDA Consumer Update on Osteoporosis Drugs
Healthy Bones, Build Them for Life® Webinar Series
Report from the Agency for Healthcare and Research Quality
Talk Before You Take
Prescription Opioids: What You Need to Know
4 Medication Safety Tips for Older Adults
Must for Seniors
Drug Costs Facts