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Raloxifene is taken in pill form every day. It can be taken at any time during the day. It is used only for postmenopausal women.

How It Works

Raloxifene is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), which works like estrogen on bone. It also works like an "anti-estrogen" on breast tissue and the uterus. As a result, raloxifene:

  • Prevents and treats osteoporosis by slowing bone thinning and causing some increase in bone thickness.
  • Lowers the risk of breast cancer.

Why It Is Used

Raloxifene is used to prevent and treat osteoporosis in women.

Raloxifene can also be used to help prevent breast cancer in women who have a high risk for breast cancer.

Raloxifene may be a good choice for women who are considering medicines to prevent or treat osteoporosis and who also have a high risk for breast cancer.

How Well It Works

Bone. Studies show that raloxifene increases bone density in the bones of the spine and neck. This lowers the risk for broken spinal bones.1 Although raloxifene works much like estrogen, it may not be as effective on bone.

Breast cancer. Among high-risk women, raloxifene lowers the risk of breast cancer about as much as tamoxifen does.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.
  • Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism is the sudden blockage of an artery in the lung. Symptoms of pulmonary embolism include:
    • Sudden shortness of breath.
    • Chest pain that may get worse with a deep breath.
    • A cough that may bring up blood.
    • A fast heart rate.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Symptoms of blood clots in deep veins (deep vein thrombosis). You may or may not have symptoms of deep vein thrombosis. Symptoms that occur in the legs include:
    • Swelling.
    • Warmth.
    • Pain or tenderness.
    • Redness.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Hot flashes.
  • Vaginal dryness.
  • Leg cramps.

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

What To Think About

Raloxifene raises your risk of dangerous blood clots. So does bed rest. If you plan to have a surgery followed by bed rest, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce the risk of blood clots around the time of surgery.

Do not take raloxifene if you are taking certain medicines, such as cholestyramine, to lower the amounts of cholesterol in your blood, or if you have liver disease.

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.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

There are not good studies that show whether or not the drug can harm a baby through breast-feeding. Talk to your doctor before taking this drug if you are breast-feeding.


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. Vogel VG, et al. (2006). Effects of tamoxifen vs. raloxifene on the risk of developing invasive breast cancer and other disease outcomes: The NASBP study of tamoxifen and raloxifene (STAR) P-2 trial. JAMA, 295(23): 2727–2741.


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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