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Denosumab injection
Monoclonal antibody
TypeWhole antibody
TargetRANK ligand
Trade namesProlia, Xgeva
Other namesAMG-162
Clinical data
Drug classRANKL inhibitor[1]
Main usesOsteoporosis, bone cancer, high calcium due to cancer[2]
Side effectsJoint and muscle pain[1]
  • AU: D
  • US: N (Not classified yet)
Routes of
Subcutaneous injection
External links
License data
Legal status
  • AU: S4 (Prescription only)
  • US: ℞-only
  • EU: Rx-only
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass144722.80 g·mol−1

Denosumab, sold under the brand names Prolia and Xgeva, is used to treat osteoporosis, bone cancer, and high calcium due to cancer.[2] It is given by injection under the skin.[2] It is used with calcium supplements and vitamin D.[3]

Common side effects include joint and muscle pain.[1] Other side effects may include cellulitis, low calcium, allergic reactions, and osteonecrosis of the jaw.[1] It is a monoclonal antibody that attaches to and inhibits RANKL, which decreases osteoclasts breaking down bone.[1]

Denosumab was approved for medical use in the United States and Europe in 2010.[2][1] In the United Kingdom 60 mg cost the NHS about £180 as of 2021.[3] In the United States this amount costs about 1,250 USD.[4]

Medical uses

Denosumab is used for those with osteoporosis at high risk for fractures, bone loss due to certain medications, and in those with bone metastases.[5]


In those with postmenopausal osteoporosis it decreases the risk of fractures but increases the risk of infection.[6] A 2013 review concluded that it is a reasonable treatment for this condition.[7] A 2017 review did not find benefit in males.[8]


A 2012 meta-analysis found that denosumab was better than placebo, zoledronic acid and pamidronate in reducing the risk of fractures in those with cancer.[9]


It is typically give at a dose of 60 mg every 6 months.[1] For those with bone metastases 120 mg every 4 weeks may be used.[3]

Side effects

a) 2 weeks after denosumab injection b) two months after, the individual has complete hair loss

The most common side effects are joint and muscle pain in the arms or legs.[10] There is an increased risk of infections such as cellulitis, hypocalcemia (low blood calcium), hypersensitivity allergy reactions, and osteonecrosis of the jaw and atypical femur fractures.[10][11] Another trial showed significantly increased rates of eczema and hospitalization due to infections of the skin.[12] It has been proposed that the increase in infections under denosumab treatment might be connected to the role of RANKL in the immune system.[13] RANKL is expressed by T helper cells, and is thought to be involved in dendritic cell maturation.[14]

Discontinuation of denosumab is associated with a rebound increase in bone turnover. In rare cases this has led to severe hypercalcemia, especially in children.[15] Vertebral compression fractures have also occurred in some people after discontinuing treatment.[15]

Contraindications and interactions

It is contraindicated in people with hypocalcemia, and sufficient calcium and vitamin D levels must be reached before starting on denosumab therapy.[11] Data regarding interactions with other drugs are missing. It is unlikely that denosumab exhibits any clinically relevant interactions.[11]

Denosumab works by lowering the hormonal message that leads to excessive osteoclast-driven bone removal and is active in the body for only six months. Similarly to bisphosphonates, denosumab appears to be implicated in increasing the risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) following extraction of teeth or oral surgical procedures but, unlike bisphosphonate, the risk declines to zero approximately 6 months after injection.[16] Invasive dental procedures should be avoided during this time.

Mechanism of action

Site of action for first-line osteoporosis treatment[17]

Bone remodeling is the process by which the body continuously removes old bone tissue and replaces it with new bone. It is driven by various types of cells, most notably osteoblasts (which secrete new bone) and osteoclasts (which break down bone); osteocytes are also present in bone.

Precursors to osteoclasts, called pre-osteoclasts, express surface receptors called RANK (receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappa B). RANK is a member of the tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily. RANK is activated by RANKL (the RANK-Ligand), which exists as cell surface molecules on osteoblasts. Activation of RANK by RANKL promotes the maturation of pre-osteoclasts into osteoclasts. Denosumab inhibits this maturation of osteoclasts by binding to and inhibiting RANKL. This mimics the natural action of osteoprotegerin, an endogenous RANKL inhibitor, that presents with decreasing concentrations (and perhaps decreased avidity) in patients who are suffering from osteoporosis. This protects bone from degradation, and helps to counter the progression of the disease.[18]

Society and culture


This medication in the U.S. for subcutaneous solution 60 mg/mL is $1,423 (USD) for 1 ml[19]

Regulatory approval

It was developed by the biotechnology company Amgen.[20]

United States

On 13 August 2009, a meeting was held between Amgen and the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs (ACRHD) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the potential uses of denosumab.[21]

In October 2009, the FDA delayed approval of denosumab, stating that they needed more information.[22]

On 2 June 2010, denosumab was approved by the FDA for use in postmenopausal women with risk of osteoporosis[23] under the trade name Prolia,[24] and in November 2010 as Xgeva for the prevention of skeleton-related events in patients with bone metastases from solid tumors.[25] Denosumab is the first RANKL inhibitor to be approved by the FDA.[23]

On 13 June 2013, the FDA approved denosumab for treatment of adults and skeletally mature adolescents with giant cell tumor of bone that is unresectable or where resection would result in significant morbidity.[26]


On 17 December 2009, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) issued a positive opinion for denosumab for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis in women and for the treatment of bone loss in men with hormone ablation therapy for prostate cancer.[10] Denosumab was approved for marketing by the European Commission on 28 May 2010.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Prolia". Archived from the original on 16 September 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Denosumab Monograph for Professionals". Archived from the original on 30 April 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 BNF 81: March-September 2021. BMJ Group and the Pharmaceutical Press. 2021. p. 776. ISBN 978-0857114105.
  4. "Prolia Prices, Coupons & Savings Tips - GoodRx". GoodRx. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  5. "Denosumab". The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Archived from the original on April 30, 2021. Retrieved Mar 16, 2015.
  6. Zhou Z, Chen C, Zhang J, Ji X, Liu L, Zhang G, et al. (2014). "Safety of denosumab in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis or low bone mineral density: a meta-analysis". International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology. 7 (5): 2113–22. PMC 4069896. PMID 24966919.
  7. Josse R, Khan A, Ngui D, Shapiro M (March 2013). "Denosumab, a new pharmacotherapy option for postmenopausal osteoporosis". Current Medical Research and Opinion. 29 (3): 205–16. doi:10.1185/03007995.2013.763779. PMID 23297819. S2CID 206967103.
  8. Nayak S, Greenspan SL (March 2017). "Osteoporosis Treatment Efficacy for Men: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis". Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 65 (3): 490–495. doi:10.1111/jgs.14668. PMC 5358515. PMID 28304090.
  9. Lipton A, Fizazi K, Stopeck AT, Henry DH, Brown JE, Yardley DA, et al. (November 2012). "Superiority of denosumab to zoledronic acid for prevention of skeletal-related events: a combined analysis of 3 pivotal, randomised, phase 3 trials". European Journal of Cancer. 48 (16): 3082–92. doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2012.08.002. PMID 22975218.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "European Public Assessment Report (EPAR) for Prolia" (PDF). European Medicines Agency. October 16, 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Haberfeld, H, ed. (2017). Austria-Codex (in Deutsch). Vienna: Österreichischer Apothekerverlag. Prolia-Injektionslösung in einer Fertigspritze. ISBN 978-3-85200-196-8.
  12. Cummings SR, San Martin J, McClung MR, Siris ES, Eastell R, Reid IR, et al. (August 2009). "Denosumab for prevention of fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis". The New England Journal of Medicine. 361 (8): 756–65. CiteSeerX doi:10.1056/NEJMoa0809493. PMID 19671655.
  13. Khosla S (August 2009). "Increasing options for the treatment of osteoporosis". The New England Journal of Medicine. 361 (8): 818–20. doi:10.1056/NEJMe0905480. PMC 3901579. PMID 19671654.
  14. EntrezGene 8600 TNFSF11 tumor necrosis factor (ligand) superfamily, member 11; Homo sapiens

    also known as RANKL. This protein was shown to be a dentritic cell survival factor and is involved in the regulation of T cell-dependent immune response.

  15. 15.0 15.1 Boyce AM (August 2017). "Denosumab: an Emerging Therapy in Pediatric Bone Disorders". Current Osteoporosis Reports. 15 (4): 283–292. doi:10.1007/s11914-017-0380-1. PMC 5554707. PMID 28643220.
  16. "Injectable Prolia — Osteoporosis Update". Archived from the original on 2021-03-09. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  17. Hanley, D. A.; Adachi, J. D.; Bell, A.; Brown, V. (December 2012). "Denosumab: mechanism of action and clinical outcomes". International Journal of Clinical Practice. 66 (12): 1139–1146. doi:10.1111/ijcp.12022. PMID 22967310.
  18. McClung MR, Lewiecki EM, Cohen SB, Bolognese MA, Woodson GC, Moffett AH, et al. (February 2006). "Denosumab in postmenopausal women with low bone mineral density". The New England Journal of Medicine. 354 (8): 821–31. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa044459. PMID 16495394.
  19. "Prolia Prices, Coupons & Patient Assistance Programs". Archived from the original on 23 January 2021. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  20. "Prolia (denosumab)". Products. Amgen. Archived from the original on 29 September 2015. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  21. "Amgen Issues Statement on Outcomes of Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs (ACRHD) Meeting". PRNewswire/FirstCall. August 13, 2009. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  22. Pollack A (19 October 2009). "F.D.A. Says No to an Amgen Bone Drug". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 January 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "FDA Approves Denosumab for Osteoporosis". 2 June 2010. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  24. Matthew Perrone (June 2, 2010). "FDA clears Amgen's bone-strengthening drug Prolia". BioScience Technology. Archived from the original on August 27, 2010. Retrieved June 2, 2010.
  25. "Amgen's Denosumab Cleared by FDA for Second Indication". 19 Nov 2010. Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  26. "FDA Approval for Denosumab". Archived from the original on 2015-04-06. Retrieved 2020-12-04.

Further reading

External links

External sites: