Bisphosphonates in the prevention and treatment of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis

J Fam Pract. 2000 Sep;49(9):839-48.


Objective: To summarize the literature concerning the use of bisphosphonates in the prevention and treatment of corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis and make recommendations concerning the proper use of these agents.

Search strategies: We conducted a literature search to identify studies in the English language concerning the use of bisphosphonates in the prevention or treatment of corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis using the MEDLINE, CURRENT CONTENTS, and HEALTHSTAR electronic databases, bibliographies of selected citations, and recent meeting abstracts.

Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials evaluating the use of oral bisphosphonates in adults by central dual X-ray absorptiometry.

Data collection and analysis: We assessed the methodologic quality of the trials using the Jadad criteria. Data were collected concerning bone mineral density (BMD) changes in multiple areas, fracture rates, safety, and tolerability.

Main results: Bisphosphonates generally increased BMD at the lumbar spine. Data were less clear concerning changes in the femoral area. Little information exists about the ability of bisphosphonates to reduce fracture risk in patients with corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis. Postmenopausal women seemed to receive the most benefit.

Conclusions: Bisphosphonates significantly increased BMD in patients at risk for corticosteroid-induced bone loss. However, there is a sparsity of data concerning the ability of these agents to affect the clinically important outcome of fracture rate reduction, especially among premenopausal women in whom fractures are rare within the first year or 2 of exposure to corticosteroids. Long-term studies powered to detect fracture risk reduction are needed as well as comparative trials with bisphosphonates and other agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Diphosphonates / adverse effects
  • Diphosphonates / pharmacology
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / chemically induced
  • Osteoporosis / complications
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors


  • Diphosphonates
  • Glucocorticoids