Effects of denosumab on bone mineral density and bone turnover in postmenopausal women

Academic Article


  • Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease affecting approximately 10 million American adults. Several options are available to prevent development of the disease or slow and even stop its progression. Nonpharmacologic measures include adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, exercise, fall prevention, and avoidance of tobacco and excessive alcohol intake. Current drug therapy includes bisphosphonates, calcitonin, estrogen or hormone therapy, selective estrogen receptor modulators, and teriparatide. Denosumab, a receptor activator of nuclear factor-κ B ligand (RANKL) inhibitor, was recently approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Patients treated with denosumab experienced significant gains in bone mineral density, rapid reductions in markers of bone turnover, and a reduced risk for new vertebral fracture. Compared with placebo, patients receiving denosumab 60 mg subcutaneously once every 6 months experienced gains in bone mineral density of 6.5-11% when treated for 24-48 months. One trial demonstrated the superiority of denosumab compared with alendronate, but the differences were small. The most common adverse reactions to denosumab include back pain, pain in extremities, musculoskeletal pain, and cystitis. Serious, but rare, adverse reactions include the development of serious infections, dermatologic changes, and hypocalcemia. The recommended dosing of denosumab is 60 mg every 6 months as a subcutaneous injection in the upper arm, upper thigh, or abdomen. Although beneficial effects on bone mineral density and fracture rate have been established in clinical trials, the risks associated with denosumab must be evaluated before therapy initiation. Of concern is the risk of infection, and denosumab should likely be avoided in patients taking immunosuppressive therapy or at high risk for infection. Therefore, bisphosphonates will likely remain as first-line therapy. Denosumab should be considered in patients unable to tolerate or who have adherence issues or contraindications to other therapies.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wensel TM; Iranikhah MM; Wilborn TW
  • Start Page

  • 510
  • End Page

  • 523
  • Volume

  • 31
  • Issue

  • 5