Recommendations for the prevention and treatment of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis: 2001 update. American College of Rheumatology Ad Hoc Committee on Glucocorticoid-Induced Osteoporosis

Arthritis Rheum. 2001 Jul;44(7):1496-503. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(200107)44:7<1496::AID-ART271>3.0.CO;2-5.


Glucocorticoid-induced bone loss should be prevented, and if present, should be treated (Table 2). Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D at a dosage of 800 IU/day, or an activated form of vitamin D (e.g., alfacalcidiol at 1 microg/day or calcitriol at 0.5 microg/day), should be offered to all patients receiving glucocorticoids, to restore normal calcium balance. This combination has been shown to maintain bone mass in patients receiving long-term low-to-medium-dose glucocorticoid therapy who have normal levels of gonadal hormones. However, while supplementation with calcium and vitamin D alone generally will not prevent bone loss in patients in whom medium-to-high-dose glucocorticoid therapy is being initiated, supplementation with calcium and an activated form of vitamin D will prevent bone loss. There are no data available to support any conclusion about the antifracture efficacy of the combination of calcium supplementation plus an activated form of vitamin D. Antiresorptive agents are effective in the treatment of glucocorticoid-induced bone loss. All of these agents either prevent bone loss or modestly increase lumbar spine bone mass and maintain hip bone mass. While there are no randomized controlled trials of prevention of glucocorticoid-induced bone loss or radiographic vertebral fracture outcomes with HRT or testosterone, patients receiving long-term glucocorticoid therapy who are hypogonadal should be offered HRT. The bisphosphonates are effective for both the prevention and the treatment of glucocorticoid-induced bone loss. Large studies have demonstrated that bisphosphonates also reduce the incidence of radiographic vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women with glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis. Treatment with a bisphosphonate is recommended to prevent bone loss in all men and postmenopausal women in whom long-term glucocorticoid treatment at > or =5 mg/day is being initiated, as well as in men and postmenopausal women receiving long-term glucocorticoids in whom the BMD T-score at either the lumbar spine or the hip is below normal. While there is little information on the prevention or treatment of bone loss in premenopausal women, these women, too, may lose bone mass if they are being treated with glucocorticoids, so prevention of bone loss with antiresorptive agents should be considered. If bisphosphonate therapy is being considered for a premenopausal woman, she must be counseled regarding use of appropriate contraception. The therapies to prevent or treat glucocorticoid-induced bone loss should be continued as long as the patient is receiving glucocorticoids. Data from large studies of anabolic agents (e.g., PTH) and further studies of combination therapy in patients receiving glucocorticoids are eagerly awaited so additional options will be available for the prevention of this serious complication of glucocorticoid treatment.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / chemically induced
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Rheumatic Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Diphosphonates
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Calcium