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Do Causes Of Osteopenia Include Risky Medications?

Medications can be one of the causes of osteopenia. Some medications interfere with calcium absorption or bone formation and can leave us susceptible to developing osteoporosis.

Most medications are harmless for short periods but prolonged use of certain drugs can interfere with calcium absorption calcium absorption or bone formation. As the bone gradually erodes over time, the medication can be one of the causes of osteopenia in people who would not normally be at risk.

People with asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, continuous heartburn or acid reflux, epilepsy, thyroid conditions or mental illness may need to take additional steps to prevent bone loss. Here are some medications to be aware of:

Steroids Or Corticosteroids

Steroids and Corticosteroids are the most common drug-related causes of osteopenia. They are used for a wide variety of conditions including acid reflux, inflammatory intestinal illness, rheumatoid arthritis and immune suppressant treatment following a transplant. These drugs may be prescribed as a pill, injection, a spray or a skin cream. When used for a short time or injected into a joint or swollen area there is no effect on bone health, but when used for long periods of time (3 months or more) they begin to destroy the bone-building process. Some of the more frequently prescribed steroid drugs are prednisone, prednisolone, Medrol, Deltasone, Decadron, Cortisone, Cortel, Celestone, and Aristocort.

Studies show that within the first year after starting corticosteroid therapy, patients lose an average 14 percent of their bone mineral content. Anyone on long-term steroids should have a bone density scan, use bone-building supplements, join an exercise class that includes weight training and possibly take osteoporosis medication to prevent the inevitable bone loss.

Thyroid Medication

The thyroid is a powerful gland that regulates metabolism. Recent studies in Canada indicate that 30% (over 10 million people) suffer from a thyroid condition of one type or another, although as many as 50% may be undiagnosed. Long-term use of medications to control thyroid activity (hypothyroid or hyperthyroid) can seriously interfere with both bone-repair and bone-building health.

Antacids With Aluminum

Antacids are commonly used to treat heartburn, indigestion, excess stomach acid, ulcers, and gastric reflux disease. Some of these antacids are salts derived from mineral sources, including aluminum which impedes the absorption of calcium. Popular aluminum-based antacids include: Aludros, Amphojel, Gaviscon, Gelusil, Kolantyl, Maalox, Mylanta, Riopan. Non-aluminum-based antacids include Alka-Seltzer, Bisodol, Mylicon, Rolaids*, Titralac*, and Tums*.

The antacids with an asterisk (*) contain calcium carbonate, which helps bones if combined with sufficient vitamin D and other minerals.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

Proton Pump Inhibitors (or PPIs) are one of the most widely selling drugs in the world. This group of drugs is designed to reduce gastric acid production and is used to treat conditions such as acid reflux, stress gastritis and peptic ulcers. There is a growing amount of research suggesting that prolonged use of these drugs can inhibit calcium absorption and be one of the causes of osteopenia.


Frequent or prolonged use of antibiotics, especially tetracycline, can impair healthy bone structure and function. Taking probiotics while on antibiotics and at least one month afterwards will help to protect your bones.


Anticonvulsant medication (used to prevent seizures) can be one of the causes of osteopenia because they inhibit the liver’s ability to metabolize vitamin D3 –which helps the body to absorb calcium. Phenytoin (trade name Dilantin) is the most commonly used anticonvulsant and Phenobarbital is also used. Since these drugs must be taken for a lifetime, it is important to use effective calcium supplements along with a healthy diet and exercise.


Diuretics or water pills increase the volume of urine and are used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Loop diuretics are a particular problem for bone development as they cause the kidneys to excrete excess calcium. The most popular forms of this drug are Lasix, Aldactone, Dyazide, Bumes, Diamox, and Edecrin.

On the other hand, thiazide diuretics actually help us to preserve calcium because they decrease the urinary excretion of calcium. Hyrodiuril and hyrodthiazide are diuretics of this class commonly prescribed for mild high blood pressure, for water retention and sometimes along with other high blood pressure medications.

Heparin And Coumadin (Warfarin)

Blood-thinners or anticoagulants used for the treatment of heart problems can be one of the causes of osteopenia because they inhibit the calcium absorption necessary for bone-building.


Lithium is used to treat patients with a bipolar disorder- a condition marked by periods of euphoria and high energy alternating with depression. One of its side effects is the increased production of parathyroid hormone, which in turn increases the breakdown of bone.


The medication methotrexate is sometimes used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, psoriasis, and other immune disorders.

Fortunately, research shows that proper diet, supplements, exercise and sometimes medication can halt and even reverse osteopenia.

Puritan’s Pride Bone Care provides recommended levels of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K for approximately $30 a year.

For information on how to address the causes of osteopenia with natural remedies... visit Osteoporosis Treatment Guidelines.