Calcitonin for Osteoporosis

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Calcitonin for Osteoporosis


Generic NameBrand Name
calcitoninFortical, Miacalcin

How It Works

Calcitonin is a naturally occurring hormone. It helps regulate calcium levels in your body and is involved in the process of bone building. When taken by shot or nasal spray, it slows the rate of bone thinning. It also relieves pain that occurs when the bones in the spine (vertebrae) break and collapse on top of each other (spinal compression fracture).

Why It Is Used

Calcitonin is used in women with osteoporosis to help reduce bone loss.

It may be prescribed for women who are more than 5 years beyond menopause and who do not tolerate bisphosphonate medicines.

Calcitonin may be used in men with osteoporosis who have normal levels of the male sex hormone testosterone or whose osteoporosis does not get better with testosterone treatment.

Calcitonin may relieve pain caused by spinal compression fractures.

How Well It Works

Calcitonin slows thinning of bone, and may help relieve pain from broken bones caused by osteoporosis.1 It may also decrease the risk of fractures in the spine.2

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects include:

Common side effects of injected calcitonin include:

  • Nausea with or without vomiting.
  • Skin irritation at the injection site.
  • Skin redness (flushing).

Common side effects of nasal calcitonin include:

  • Runny nose.
  • Nasal discomfort, sores, or redness.
  • Nosebleeds.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

It may take up to 2 weeks before pain relief is noticed. Not all people who take calcitonin get relief from their pain.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Drugs for postmenopausal osteoporosis (2011). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 9(111): 67–74.
  2. Vestergaard P, et al. (2011). Fracture prevention in postmenopausal women, search date September 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerCarla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Last RevisedNovember 6, 2012

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