Actonel® is one of the FDA-approved medicines for treatment of osteoporosis. The brand Actonel is a product of Warner Chilcott and its generic name is risedronate. Actonel is in the class of medicines called bisphosphonates. It works by decreasing bone turnover. Therefore, the breakdown of bone is slowed down and results in an increase of bone mineral density.

Tablet Requires Special Dosing Instructions

Actonel is a tablet taken by mouth. It’s most commonly prescribed once a week or in a higher dosage once a month. Because Actonel is poorly absorbed if you eat or drink something at the same time, special instructions for taking the medicine need to be followed:

Actonel is taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach with 6 to 8 ounces of plain water. You must wait one half an hour before taking any food, drinks, or other medicines. During this time you also must remain upright to help ensure the medicine reaches the stomach and causes no irritation to the esophagus.

After Breakfast Alternative – Atelvia

Another formulation of this medicine called Atelvia does not have the same fasting restrictions and is taken after breakfast once a week. Atelvia may be an option for you instead of Actonel if you find fasting difficult to follow.

Indications for Actonel

The indications for taking Actonel are that you are high risk for breaking a bone or taking steroid medicines that put you at higher risk for breaking a bone. Actonel is approved for use in both men and women.

Lowers Risk of Fractures

The goal of taking this medicine is to decrease your risk of breaking a bone. The effectiveness in lowering the risk of fractures was found for both spine and non-spine fractures into large clinical trials (VERT-North America and VERT-Multinational). In a separate study focused on older individuals and hip fractures, an overall reduction of hip fractures of 30% was also observed.

Side Effects

As with any medicine, side effects are possible. The most common side effects are digestive system problems including nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, or constipation. The original marketing for Actonel suggested that the rates of these side effects were lower than that of Fosamax. However, an estimated 10% of individuals starting Actonel may experience digestive symptoms.

A “Medication Guide” that is included with the dispensing of Actonel and all the bisphosphonate-class medicines details 5 potential serious side effects:

1. Esophagus problems

2. Low calcium levels in your blood (hypocalcaemia)

3. Severe jaw bone problems (osteonecrosis of the jaw)

4. Bone, joint, or muscle pain

5. Unusual thigh bone fractures (atypical femur fractures)

Overall Actonel is well tolerated and these serious side effects occur infrequently. Discuss with your doctor or healthcare practitioner your individual risk and whether this medicine would be appropriate for you to use.

Other resources:

FDA Medication Guide for Actonel