Calcitonin for osteoporosis


Generic Name Brand Name
calcitonin-human Cibacalcin
calcitonin-salmon Calcimar, Miacalcin

Calcitonin can be taken in a nasal spray, as a shot into the muscle (intramuscular, or IM), or as a shot into the fat tissue (subcutaneous).

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 reduce bone loss. It reduces spinal bone (vertebrae) fractures when taken by postmenopausal women for at least 1 year.1

It may be prescribed for women who are more than 5 years beyond menopause and who do not tolerate bisphosphonate medications.2

Calcitonin can 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 relieves pain caused by spinal compression fractures.

How Well It Works

  • Calcitonin slows thinning of bone in the spine, hip (pelvis), and ends of the long bones (trabecular bone). But it does not appear to be as effective as other medicines, such as raloxifene or alendronate, at building bone mass and reducing the risk of fractures.3
  • Calcitonin helps relieve pain from broken bones caused by osteoporosis.

Side Effects

Side effects of the nasal spray may include:

  • Runny nose or nasal discomfort.
  • Nausea.
  • Skin redness (flushing).

Side effects of the shot may include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Inflammation at the site of the shot.
  • Skin redness (flushing).
  • Increased urination or increased number of bowel movements.

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.

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  1. Mosekilde L, et al. (2008). Fracture prevention in postmenopausal women, search date January 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence. Also available online:
  2. Silverman SL (2002). Calcitonin. In SR Cummings et al., eds., Osteoporosis: An Evidence-Based Guide to Prevention and Management, pp. 197–208. Philadelphia: American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine.
  3. Drugs for postmenopausal osteoporosis (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(74): 67–74.

Last Updated: November 21, 2008

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