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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.1 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.2
How Well It Works
Bone. Studies show that raloxifene increases bone mineral density in the bones of the spine and neck. This lowers the risk for broken spinal bones.3 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 of raloxifene include:
- Hot flashes.
- Vaginal dryness.
- Leg cramps.
- 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:
- Pain or tenderness.
- 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.
- Uterine cancer (rare).
Less serious side effects include:
- Muscle and joint aches.
- Weight gain.
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.
Raloxifene should not be used in women who:
- Are pregnant or might become pregnant. If you are nursing, do not take raloxifene, because experts do not know if the drug passes through breast milk.
- Have a history of blood clots in their deep veins (venous thromboembolism, deep vein thrombosis, or pulmonary embolism).
- Are taking certain medicines, such as cholestyramine, to lower the amounts of cholesterol in the blood.
- Have liver disease.
- Abramowicz M (2006). Raloxifene (Evista) for breast cancer prevention in postmenopausal women. Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 48(1234): 37.
- 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.
- Drugs for postmenopausal osteoporosis (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(74): 67–74.
Last Updated: November 21, 2008