Is This Osteoporosis Drug Safe?

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Is my 90-year-old friend’s osteoporosis medication (denosumab) safe? Is there any evidence to back our hunch that it could be dangerous for an older person in frail health?

That’s what one Good Times reader wrote in to ask recently.

Any time you consider starting a new prescription medication, ideally you, together with the health professional who is proposing the treatment, have to weigh the hoped-for benefits against the potential risks. 

As we age, making that call becomes increasingly complicated, since the older we are, the more medical conditions we’re likely to be managing at once, and the greater the likelihood that we’re already taking several medications. That adds up to a greater chance of drug interactions and adverse drug events. 

Deciding whether to risk potential side effects to reduce the chance of some future event adds an extra layer of difficulty.

While it’s impossible to know precisely what the prescribing physician had in mind without more information, we tried to walk readers through what we know about the risks and the benefits of denosumab (Prolia), a second-line medication intended to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture — which increases with age. You can read more here.

A big thank-you to our two expert interviewees: Dr. Kristin Clemens, an endocrinologist with the Osteoporosis and Bone Disease Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare London (Ont.), and Dr. Dee Magnin, the David Braley Nancy Gordon Chair and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

Osteoporosis Canada is a good resource if you’d like to read more about the condition.

Illustration by Arek Socha courtesy of Pixabay