The efficacy and safety of oral pamidronate was examined in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in women and men with established osteoporosis. Seventy-eight postmenopausal women and 23 men with at least one prevalent vertebral fracture were randomized separately to 150 mg/day of pamidronate or placebo for 3 years followed by 150 mg/day of pamidronate for an additional 2 years. In addition, all patients received 400 U/day of cholecalciferol and 500 mg/day of elemental calcium. Pamidronate increased significantly bone mineral density of the lumbar spine (LS-BMD) and of the femoral neck (FN-BMD). The total increase in BMD of the spine after 5 years of treatment was 14.3%. Lateral spine radiographs were obtained at baseline and after 3 years of treatment. Fractures of previously normal vertebrae occurred in 15 of 45 patients treated with placebo (33.3%) and in 5 of 46 patients treated with pamidronate (11%). The relative risk was 0.33 (95% CI, 0.14-0.77). Treatment was well tolerated and there was no difference in gastrointestinal toxicity between pamidronate and placebo-treated patients. One hundred fifty milligrams daily of pamidronate is an effective and safe treatment of women and men with established osteoporosis.