Prolia vs Forteo

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For patients with osteoporosis, certain drugs that target bone metabolism can help in increasing bone density and reducing the risk of fractures. Prolia and Forteo are two such drugs that are prescribed for osteoporosis. They each impact different processes in bone metabolism, but both have bone-strengthening effects in patients with osteoporosis. Prolia, also known as Denosumab, is a monoclonal antibody that inhibits bone resorption by targeting a specific protein (RANKL) that activates bone-destroying cells called osteoclasts. On the other hand, Forteo, also known as Teriparatide, is a synthetic form of parathyroid hormone that stimulates new bone formation by acting on the cells that build bone, called osteoblasts.

What is Prolia?

Denosumab (the generic name for Prolia) was a significant advancement in the class of drugs known as RANKL inhibitors, primarily used for treating osteoporosis. It was first approved by the FDA in 2010. Prolia works by inhibiting a protein called RANKL, which plays a crucial role in the formation, function, and survival of osteoclasts, the cells responsible for bone resorption. This effectively traps more bone mass, leading to higher bone density. Prolia is typically prescribed for postmenopausal women who are at high risk for fracture. As it selectively targets RANKL, Prolia has fewer side effects compared to other drugs influencing the whole bone remodeling process.

On the other hand, Teriparatide (the generic name for Forteo) is a recombinant form of parathyroid hormone, which directly stimulates the formation of new bone by osteoblasts. It was approved by the FDA in 2002. Forteo is usually reserved for patients with severe osteoporosis who have already had fractures or who haven't responded adequately to other treatments. Unlike Prolia, Forteo may have more side effects as it has a broader effect on bone metabolism.

What conditions is Prolia approved to treat?

Prolia is approved for the treatment of various bone-related conditions including:

  • Postmenopausal osteoporosis in women at high risk for fracture
  • Increase in bone mass in men with osteoporosis at high risk for fracture
  • Bone loss due to hormone ablation therapy used to treat either breast cancer or prostate cancer.

How does Prolia help with these illnesses?

Prolia helps to manage osteoporosis by reducing the action of cells that break down bone, called osteoclasts. It does this by blocking a protein known as RANKL, which is essential for the formation and function of osteoclasts. Bones in our body are constantly being remodelled with old bone being broken down by osteoclasts and new bone formed by cells called osteoblasts. In individuals with osteoporosis, there's an imbalance with more bone being broken down than formed leading to weaker bones. Therefore, by inhibiting RANKL, Prolia can limit the negative effects of excess bone breakdown and help patients manage their condition and strengthen their bones.

On the other hand, Forteo works differently; it stimulates new bone growth rather than just slowing resorption (breakdown). It accomplishes this because it is a form of parathyroid hormone—PTH increases both osteoblast activity (bone creation) and indirectly also increases osteoclast activity (bone resorption), but its net effect when given intermittently promotes more new-bone formation than destruction.

Both medications are used for treating severe forms of Osteoporosis but each has unique aspects about how they work within your body.

What is Forteo?

Forteo is a brand name for teriparatide, which is a type of drug called an osteoanabolic agent. This means it stimulates new bone growth by increasing the activity and number of bone-forming cells (osteoblasts). It does this by mimicking the effects of parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium and phosphate metabolism in bones. Teriparatide was first approved by the FDA in 2002.

Unlike denosumab - the active ingredient in Prolia, which works by preventing bone breakdown - Forteo actively promotes bone formation. Its distinct mechanism of action often makes it more effective at building new bone than drugs like Prolia that simply slow down or stop bone loss.

Forteo's unique approach to promoting bone health means its side-effect profile differs from that of antiresorptive drugs such as Prolia. In particular, it can cause hypercalcemia (high calcium levels) if taken excessively and may also lead to transient orthostatic hypotension immediately after administration. However, these side effects are generally manageable with proper dosing and patient education.

What conditions is Forteo approved to treat?

Forteo is a unique drug that has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of specific types of osteoporosis:

  • Osteoporosis in postmenopausal women who are at high risk for fracture
  • To increase bone mass in men with primary or hypogonadal osteoporosis who are at high risk for fracture

How does Forteo help with these illnesses?

Forteo, also known as teriparatide, has a unique role in the treatment of osteoporosis. It is a recombinant form of parathyroid hormone, which is a regulator of bone metabolism in the body. Unlike other osteoporosis medications like Prolia, which work by slowing bone breakdown, Forteo works by both increasing bone formation and to a lesser extent, bone resorption. This dual action helps improve bone density and reduce the risk of fractures. This makes Forteo an exceptional choice for patients with severe osteoporosis or those who have not responded well to other treatments. However, due to its potential side effects and the requirement of daily injections, it is typically reserved for specific cases and used under careful medical supervision.

How effective are both Prolia and Forteo?

Both denosumab (Prolia) and teriparatide (Forteo) have proven efficacy in treating osteoporosis, being FDA approved within a decade of each other. They function through different mechanisms; Prolia is a monoclonal antibody that inhibits bone resorption, while Forteo is a form of parathyroid hormone that stimulates new bone formation.

A direct comparison study between these two drugs conducted in 2017 showed both drugs to be effective at reducing fractures associated with osteoporosis. However, the trial revealed some differences: Prolia had superior results in increasing bone mineral density at the lumbar spine and total hip whereas Forteo was more effective at the femoral neck region.

In terms of safety profile, both medications are generally well-tolerated but can lead to certain specific side effects. For instance, hypocalcemia is more common with Prolia use while hypercalcemia may occur with Forteo use.

A meta-analysis from 2009 confirmed that Forteo significantly reduces vertebral and nonvertebral fracture risk compared to placebo or alendronate therapy for postmenopausal women with severe osteoporosis. It also pointed out an optimal dose regimen of 20 micrograms/day subcutaneously for achieving its potential benefits on fracture reduction.

On the other hand, a 2020 review highlighted that Prolia has been shown to reduce risk of most types of fractures across various patient populations including those who have experienced previous fractures as well as patients on glucocorticoid treatment which makes it highly valuable especially considering its twice-yearly dosing schedule.

While data confirm their efficacy individually, research directly comparing them as monotherapy options for primary prevention or treatment of osteoporotic fractures remains limited but essential given their contrasting mechanisms and differing side-effect profiles.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Prolia typically prescribed?

Dosages of Prolia are typically 60 mg administered subcutaneously twice per year, with the injections six months apart. Studies have shown this is sufficient for treating osteoporosis in most people. For Forteo, the dosage is often 20 mcg/day injected subcutaneously into the thigh or abdomen. The treatment duration should not exceed two years due to potential risk of osteosarcoma. In both cases, these dosages and frequencies may be adjusted by physicians if there's a compelling medical reason, but must never exceed recommended maximums to avoid serious side effects.

At what dose is Forteo typically prescribed?

Forteo treatment typically begins with a dosage of 20 micrograms/day, administered via subcutaneous injection. The dose is not usually divided or increased over time because the recommended full daily dose is effective for most patients. It's important to note that the maximum duration for Forteo therapy is two years due to potential risks associated with prolonged use. Therefore, if there is no significant response or improvement in bone density and reduction in fracture risk within this period, your healthcare provider may consider other therapeutic options.

What are the most common side effects for Prolia?

Common side effects of Prolia include:

  • Back pain
  • Pain in your arms and legs
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Muscle pain
  • Bladder infection (may lead to painful or frequent urination)
  • Pancreatitis (can cause severe abdominal and back pain)
  • Constipation, diarrhea,
  • Skin problems such as eczema and rashes

On the other hand, Forteo may have side effects like:

-Pain at the injection site -Nausea -Joint aches -Leg cramps

These are not exhaustive lists of potential side effects. If any adverse symptoms occur while taking either medication, it is essential to seek medical advice immediately.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Prolia?

In comparison, Prolia and Forteo can have different side effects. For those taking Prolia:

  • Signs of allergic reactions: hives; difficulty in breathing; swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Indications of low calcium levels - muscle spasms or contractions, numbness or tingly feeling around your mouth or in your fingers and toes
  • Severe back pain
  • Numbness or weakness in lower body
  • Trouble moving legs/feet
  • Loss of bladder/bowel control

For patients using Forteo:

  • Allergic reaction symptoms such as rash; itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat); severe dizziness; trouble breathing.
  • Increased urination/thirst indicating a possible imbalance in calcium levels
  • Persistent nausea/vomiting/appetite loss which could suggest high amounts of calcium in blood.

As always with any medication, if you experience any unusual symptoms while under treatment it is crucial to seek immediate medical advice.

What are the most common side effects for Forteo?

Some of the common side effects noted in individuals who use Forteo include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Dizziness and fainting (especially soon after the injection)
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Joint aches or muscle cramps
  • Sweating Moreover, some people may experience an allergic reaction that could cause rash or hives. It is also important to note that significant weight loss is not typically associated with Forteo but if you do notice such changes while on this medication, it would be prudent to discuss them with your healthcare provider.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Forteo?

While Forteo is generally well-tolerated, it can cause some serious side effects in certain patients. These may include:

  • Signs of allergic reactions: hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling of your face or throat
  • Bone pain or a constant ache anywhere in your body
  • Unexplained muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat or feeling light-headed
  • Nausea, constipation, diarrhea
  • Serious mood changes such as depression

In the event that you experience any of these symptoms while on Forteo therapy, please seek immediate medical attention.

Contraindications for Prolia and Forteo?

Both Prolia and Forteo, in common with most osteoporosis medications, can cause side effects. If you notice an increase in pain or discomfort after starting treatment, please consult your healthcare provider immediately.

Neither Prolia nor Forteo should be used if you are taking medication to treat cancer or radiation therapy as they may cause severe bone, joint or muscle pain. Always disclose all the medications that you are currently on to your physician; some medicines will require a period of about 5 weeks to clear from the system to prevent dangerous interactions with both Prolia and Forteo.

It's important to note that patients who have hypocalcemia (low calcium levels) should not take either Prolia or Forteo until their calcium levels are corrected. Also, those with severe kidney disease or who undergo dialysis should exercise caution when considering these treatments due to potential risks associated with these conditions.

How much do Prolia and Forteo cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of Prolia (Denosumab), which is administered as a subcutaneous injection once every six months, averages around $1250 per dose. This works out to approximately $6.85/day.
  • In contrast, Forteo (Teriparatide) costs about $3700 for a one-month supply and is usually taken daily, leading to an average cost of approximately $123/day.

Therefore, if you are on regular treatment with either medicine, brand-name Prolia tends to be significantly less expensive on a per-day basis than Forteo. Please remember that cost should not be your primary consideration when choosing between these two osteoporosis treatments - effectiveness and side effects must also be considered.

As for generic options:

  • There currently isn't a generic version available in the U.S market for either medication; both Denosumab (Prolia) and Teriparatide (Forteo) are only marketed under their respective brand names as of now.

Always check with your doctor or pharmacist about the most effective medication choice based on your specific medical condition and financial situation.

Popularity of Prolia and Forteo

Denosumab, also known under the brand name Prolia, was prescribed to approximately 1.6 million people in the USA in 2020 for treating osteoporosis. This accounts for nearly a quarter of all prescriptions given out for drugs specifically designed to treat this condition. It works by slowing down bone loss and has been gaining in popularity since its approval by FDA.

Teriparatide, more commonly recognized as Forteo, is another drug used in the treatment of osteoporosis but it works differently than denosumab - it promotes new bone growth rather than simply preventing loss. It was prescribed to around 700 thousand individuals in the US within the same period and represents just over 10% of specific anti-osteoporotic medication prescriptions. Unlike denosumab's increasing trend, teriparatide use has remained relatively steady over recent years.


Prolia (denosumab) and Forteo (teriparatide) are both effective medications for osteoporosis, backed by numerous clinical studies demonstrating their efficacy in reducing the risk of fractures. Both function differently: Prolia works by inhibiting a protein involved in bone breakdown, while Forteo stimulates new bone growth.

Due to these differing mechanisms, they are prescribed under varying circumstances. For postmenopausal women at high risk of fracture or those who have failed or cannot tolerate other available osteoporosis therapy, Prolia is often considered as a first-line treatment option. In contrast, Forteo is typically reserved for patients with severe osteoporosis who are at very high risk of fractures or those unable to use other osteoporosis treatments.

Both medications require regular administration – every six months for Prolia and daily for Forteo – so patient preference can play an important role in choosing between them. Neither drug has a generic form available yet; however, this should be taken into consideration when discussing potential cost implications.

The side effect profile differs between the two drugs but both are generally well-tolerated. Common side effects reported include back pain and extremity pain with Prolia and leg cramps and dizziness with Forteo. It's essential that patients closely monitor their response to these drugs and seek medical help immediately if they notice any unusual symptoms.