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Building better osteoporosis treatments

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, causing them to become fragile and break more easily. Osteoporosis can occur in both men and women and at any age, but it is most common in older women. Women lose bone mass at a faster rate after menopause, when the body stops making the hormone estrogen.1 Osteoporosis causes half of all women over age 50 to break a bone in their lifetime.2

In 1984, the FDA released an updated guidance document on the treatment of osteoporosis. Since that time, the FDA has approved several different types of osteoporosis treatment and prevention medications: bisphosphonates (medicines that slow bone loss), peptide hormones (hormones made by the thyroid gland), estrogen (in the form of menopausal hormone therapy) for postmenopausal women, and selective estrogen receptor modulators (raloxifene for postmenopausal women).3

In 1994, NIH's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases began the Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center to increase awareness, knowledge, and understanding of osteoporosis and other bone diseases. The Center focused efforts on targeting minority women and provided publications for various populations. The 2004 first-ever Surgeon General's report on bone health and osteoporosis showed the large burden that bone disease places on older women.4

The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires most insurers to cover osteoporosis screening at no cost for women over 60 who are at increased risk for the disease.


  1. NIH, NIAMS, What Is Osteoporosis? Fast Facts: An Easy-to-Read Series of Publications for the Public
  2. MedlinePlus, Osteoporosis - overview
  3. AHRQ, Treatment To Prevent Fractures in Men and Women With Low Bone Density or Osteoporosis: Update of a 2007 Report
  4. OSG, Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General