The Dangers of Bone Density Medications: Why Collagen Could Be a Better Option

Written by Claire Hannum

Updated on May 24, 2023

Over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Another 43 million have low bone density (1). These silent killers can wreak havoc on your bones. And the worst part: they can go undetected for months or years—all without a single symptom.

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak, raising the danger of fractures and breaks (3).When fractures occur, normal daily activities become more difficult. Carrying grocery bags, doing laundry, and picking up your grandkids become nearly impossible to do on your own.

If you do have osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe you medication to help strengthen your bones. But osteoporosis medications can come with tough side effects. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the most commonly prescribed osteoporosis medications, their side effects, and provide a safe, natural treatment you can opt for instead.

Table Of Contents

The Connection Between Age and Bone Density

Throughout your life, your bones continually go through a process called bone turnover, a process in which your body breaks down old bone cells and replaces them with new bone cells. In your younger years, new cells replenish at a rate that keeps your bones healthy and strong.

But everything changes with menopause (2)...

 During menopause and into your older years, your body starts to break down old bone cells quicker than before, and it can’t always create new bone cells fast enough to replace what you lost. This leads to a loss in bone density (or osteopenia), and for many people, that bone density continues to decline until it’s full-fledged osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis. Medical illustration healthy bone and unhealthy bone. Osteoporosis may lead to bone fracture.

How to Increase Your Bone Density

Whether or not you take medication, you’ll want to adopt a few healthy habits to naturally improve your bone density.

Weight-bearing exercises like walking, low-impact aerobics, dancing, and gardening can help strengthen your bones (4, 5).

Cutting back on alcohol and eating a diet rich in nutrients like magnesium, protein, vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, and fluoride can help, too (6). 

Whether you have osteoporosis or are just high-risk, your doctor’s next suggestion may be to try bone density medication.

Container of NativePath collagen with a hand pouring a scoop into a cup of coffee.

Strong & Healthy Bones, Naturally

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body & essential for the health of your bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, digestion, & more. 

Common Medications for Bone Density

There are several different types of bone density medications on the market and they all work in different ways. While these medications may increase your bone density, they come with frustrating (and sometimes serious) side effects.

1. Bisphosphonates (like Fosamax, Bonica, Actonel, Atelvia, and Reclast)

Bisphosphonates are a drug class that work by slowing the breakdown of the bone. There are several different ways to take bisphosphonates:

  • Pills: Pill bisphosphonates consist of alendronate (like Fosamax), ibandronate (like Boniva), or risedronate (like Actonel or Atelvia). Depending on which pill you’re prescribed, you could be taking them every day, every week, or every month.
  • Injections: This form is called ibandronate (like Boniva). Injections are usually taken once every three months.
  • Infusions: Zoledronic acid (like Reclast) is given as an intravenous infusion. Infusions are often taken once a year.

Bisphosphonate pills aren’t great for anyone who is prone to a sensitive stomach or heartburn. After taking them, you’re discouraged from ingesting anything else, laying down, or even bending over for 30-60 minutes to avoid the medicine coming back up. IV bisphosphonates can cause a mild flu-like experience after your first infusion.

The most well-known potential risks of bisphosphonate are those to your thigh bone and your jaw. The medication can cause a fracture in the middle of the bone that begins slowly and worsens over time. 

 Another concern is the risk for what’s called osteonecrosis, or “bone death,” in the jaw (7, 8).

This happens when your jawbone struggles or fails to heal after dental work. These side effects are more likely to occur in patients who are taking bisphosphonates to treat cancer in the bones, or in those who have been taking high doses of bisphosphonates long term.

These risks increase with long-term use, doctors advise against taking them for more than five years, and some even suggest intermittent breaks from the drugs to lower their risk.

2. Teriparatide (like Forteo) and Abaloparatide (like Tymlos)

These two drugs work by building up your bones. They are synthetic versions of a hormone that increases density.

Teriparatide and Abaloparatide are often prescribed to those who have vertebral fractures and very low bone density. Unfortunately, when you take these drugs, you’ll need to give yourself an injection every day.

3. Calcitonin (like Miacalcin and Fortical)

Calcitonin is the oldest osteoporosis medication option, dating back to the ‘80s.

This hormone binds to the cells that normally break down bones, which helps prevent you from losing more bone density. While it’s been found to reduce spinal fractures, calcitonin isn’t known to be very effective for other types of fractures, so it’s not a very effective defense against osteoporosis.

Calcitonin also comes along with potential side effects like joint pain, stomach pain, muscle cramps, shaking hands, weight changes, and trouble sleeping.

4. Denosumab (like Prolia)

Denosumab is a monoclonal antibody that prevents the cells that break down your bones from forming. It’s taken as an injection twice a year. Unfortunately, denosumab comes with a major commitment: If you stop taking it, you’re likely to experience a swift drop in bone density and an abrupt risk of fractures (9).

5. Romosozumab (like Evenity)

Romosozumab is also a monoclonal antibody, and is usually given to those who have already suffered a fragility fracture (a fracture caused by a fall from standing height or lower).

It works by blocking a protein in your body that inhibits bone formation, freeing your system to build bone more easily. Romosozumab is given as an injection every month, but it loses its effectiveness after just one year. It also increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke (10).

6. Raloxifene (like Evista)

This medication is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). It’s often used to prevent or treat breast cancer, but it can also help treat osteoporosis. It does this by acting as estrogen in the body, which decreases how quickly your bone mass turns over (11).

It helps reduce fracture risk for people with osteoporosis in their spine. However, it comes with potential side effects, including an increased risk of dangerous blood clots in the leg like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). In one study, raloxifene was associated with a 62% increase in the risk of experiencing either DVT or PE (12).

Container of NativePath collagen with a hand pouring a scoop into a cup of coffee.

Strong & Healthy Bones, Naturally

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body & essential for the health of your bones, joints, skin, hair, nails, digestion, & more. 

A Natural, Safer Alternative: Collagen Powder

If the risks and downsides of these medications aren’t for you, collagen is a healthy, natural, virtually risk-free option.

Collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together, keeping skin hydrated, joints healthy, nails strong, and bones healthy. It’s central to maintaining bone density throughout your life, but as you age, your natural collagen production decreases (13).

By the time you’re 60, your collagen production decreases by more than half. So adding a collagen supplement to your routine can replenish the reserves you’ve lost while  building your bone density back up (14).

The cherry on top?

Collagen has nearly no side effects and is easy to take. You can boost your bone health by mixing collagen daily into your coffee, tea, smoothie, and more. It’s simple, effective, and doesn’t involve needles, hard-to-swallow pills, or risks.

That said, not all collagen is created equal

It’s important to make sure that you’re supplementing with two collagen fibers, in particular: Types 1 and Type 3. (There are 28 different types of collagen in the body, but these two make up 90% of it (15).) They’re essential for your healthy skin, muscles, and most importantly, bones. In fact, most Type 1 collagen is created by bone cells (16)! So if you’re taking collagen for bone health, Types 1 and 3 are essential.

The Bottom Line

As you age, your risk for osteoporosis increases—but you have options.

Get a headstart on better bone health by supplementing with collagen peptides. Better yet: collagen peptides that specifically target bone health: Bone Health Collagen Peptides. With two bioactive collagen peptides—FORTIBONE® and VERISOL®—you’ll be giving your body exactly what it needs for strong, sturdy bones and healthy joints, skin, hair, and nails.

Bioactive Collagen Peptides are unique in that they help you make your own collagen whereas collagen peptides simply restore the collagen you’ve lost. Mix one scoop into your daily routine for a healthier, safer, all-natural method for lowering your osteoporosis risk.

Claire Hannum
Article by

Claire Hannum

Claire Hannum is a New York City-based writer, editor, wellness seeker, and reiki practitioner. Her writing has appeared in Self, Health, Prevention, and over a dozen other publications.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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