The role of vitamin D in corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis: a meta-analytic approach

Arthritis Rheum. 1999 Aug;42(8):1740-51. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(199908)42:8<1740::AID-ANR25>3.0.CO;2-E.


Objective: To determine if vitamin D is more effective than no therapy or calcium alone in the management of corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis, and to determine how vitamin D compares with other osteoporosis therapies, e.g., bisphosphonates, calcitonin, or fluoride, for this condition.

Methods: We evaluated all formulations of vitamin D, including its active metabolites and analogs. A systematic search for published and unpublished studies was conducted using MEDLINE (1966-December 1997), bibliographic references, abstracts from proceedings of recent national meetings, and contact with pharmaceutical companies and content experts. We included all randomized controlled trials lasting at least 6 months (and reporting extractable results), of patients receiving oral corticosteroids, that compared vitamin D with either 1) no therapy or calcium alone, or 2) bisphosphonates, calcitonin, or fluoride. The primary outcome measure of interest was change in lumbar spine bone mineral density.

Results: We found a moderate beneficial effect of vitamin D plus calcium versus no therapy or calcium alone (9 trials) (effect size 0.60; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 0.34, 0.85; P < 0.0001). In comparisons of vitamin D with other osteoporosis therapies, bisphosphonates were more effective than vitamin D (6 trials) (effect size 0.57; 95% CI 0.09, 1.05). Calcitonin was similar in efficacy to vitamin D (4 trials) (effect size 0.03; 95% CI -0.39, 0.45). Fluoride was more effective than vitamin D, but there were only 2 trials.

Conclusion: Vitamin D plus calcium is superior to no therapy or calcium alone in the management of corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis. Vitamin D is less effective than some osteoporosis therapies. Therefore, treatment with vitamin D plus calcium, as a minimum, should be recommended to patients receiving long-term corticosteroids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Osteoporosis / chemically induced*
  • Osteoporosis / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vitamin D / physiology*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Vitamin D