Actonel (risedronate) is a biphosphonate medicine used to treat and prevent thinning of the bones (called osteoporosis), a condition called Paget’s disesase, and other diseases where loss of bone mass is a concern.

Biphosphonates are a class of medicines that all work in a similar way to help the bones.

Taking Actonel

Actonel is available in oral tablet form. It can be taken once a day as a 5 mg tablet, once a week as a 35 mg tablet, and once a month as a 150 mg tablet. Doctors will choose the best option depending on their patients’ needs.

To minimize side-effects and ensure the best response, we recommend that patients take Actonel as follows:

First Thing in the Morning

Actonel should be taken first thing in the morning. People should not lie down after taking this medicine.

On an Empty Stomach

Actonel should be taken on an empty stomach. Patients should wait at least 1 hour before taking any other medication, or eating or drinking anything other than clean water (no coffee, juice, or tea).

With Water

It is recommended that patients drink a full glass of water while taking their tablet.

To help build the bones, patients should take calcium and vitamin D supplements while taking Actonel. A doctor can tell you the right amount of calcium and vitamin D to take.

Important Tests and Risks

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Test

Doctors monitor the response of patients taking Actonel with a Bone Mineral Density test, usually once every 1 to 3 years.

Risk of Pain in the Jaw

Biphosphonate medicines like Actonel have been associated with a very rare problem with the jaw called osteonecrosis.

This problem is sometimes seen after dental work.

People taking Actonel should let their doctor know if they develop sudden pain in the jaw.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is known to increase fracture risk by decreasing bone mineral density and promoting osteoporosis.

People that are prescribed Actonel should stop drinking alcohol, or at least reduce the amount of alcohol that they drink.


How Actonel Works

The body features an ongoing process called bone remodelling where bones are constantly broken down (called bone resorption) and built back up.

Bones are broken down by a type of cell called osteoclasts and are built back up by a type of cell called osteoblasts.

In patients with osteoporosis and Paget’s disease, too much bone is being broken down too quickly.

All bisphosphonate medications, including Actonel, bind to the surface of bones and slow down the bone resorption process. It works because it is toxic to the osteoclasts that break down bone.

When Actonel slows down the resorption process, it gives the body more time to build up and strengthen the bones.


Side Effects

The most common side effect of Actonel is stomach upset, pain, bloating, and nausea.

To minimize side effects, it is best to take Actonel as it is prescribed: in the morning before any food or drink other than water. It is best to wait at least one hour after taking Actonel before taking any other medication or eating or drinking anything else but water.

Other possible side effects include:

  • Nausea & diarrhea – Actonel can irritate the lining of the stomach, esophagus, or intestine. This is rare. It can result in stomach pain or trouble swallowing.
  • Headache & dizziness – Actonel can rarely cause a headache
  • Muscle & bone pain – Actonel can rarely cause bone, muscle, or joint pain.

Actonel should not be taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Patients who become pregnant should stop taking the medicine and contact their doctor.

Patients should talk to their doctor if they are concerned about any side effects.

Who Should NOT Take Actonel

Patients who should NOT be taking Actonel include:

  • Patients who are allergic to Actonel or any ingredient in this medicine
  • Patients who are allergic to other biphosphonate medications
  • Patients who are pregnant or breast-feeding

Patients who become pregnant while taking Aclasta should notify their doctor immediately.

When to Call a Doctor

Patients should call their doctor if they feel sick and want to stop, or they you are concerned about any side effects.

Other reasons to call a doctor while taking Actonel include:

  • Stomach pain or trouble swallowing
  • Pregnant or Planning Pregnancy
  • New severe pain in the jaw
  • Upcoming surgery

Actonel Video

Watch Dr. Andy Thompson, a Canadian rheumatologist, introduce Actonel.


Watch Dr. Angèle Turcotte, a Canadian rheumatologist, introduce Actonel.