Oral glucocorticoid use is associated with an increased risk of fracture

Osteoporos Int. 2004 Apr;15(4):323-8. doi: 10.1007/s00198-003-1548-3. Epub 2004 Feb 5.


Oral glucocorticoids (GCs) are widely used and despite their adverse effects on bone mineral density, the risk of sustaining osteoporotic fractures is not well addressed. The objective of this retrospective, cohort study was to assess fracture risk in patients exposed to oral GCs. Patients from an administrative claims database who were prescribed oral GCs and were enrolled 1 year before and 1 year after the initial oral GC claim were matched with a comparison population on age, sex, and date of first claim. Measurements of exposure included amount, duration, and pattern of oral GC use. The osteoporosis-related risk of fracture was based on the ratio of hazard functions estimated using a Cox proportional hazards model. The adjusted relative risk (RR) estimates (and 95% CI) for fractures were hip 1.87 (95% CI, 1.2 to 2.9), vertebral 2.92 (95% CI, 2.0 to 4.3), wrist/forearm 1.03 (95% CI, 0.8 to 1.4), nonvertebral 1.68 (95% CI, 1.5 to 1.9), any fracture 1.75 (95% CI, 1.6 to 1.9). A dose dependence of fracture risk was observed for hip, vertebral, nonvertebral, and any fractures. Long duration and continuous pattern of GC use demonstrated a significant 5-fold increased risk of hip and 5.9-fold increased risk of vertebral fracture. The combined effect of higher dose, longer duration, and continuous pattern further increased RR estimates to 7-fold for hip and 17-fold for vertebral fractures. This study confirms previous observations that suggest oral GCs have a rapid deleterious effect on trabecular-rich bone. The emerging relationship between amount, duration, and pattern of oral GC exposure and fracture risk should be considered in clinical practice and managed care settings to avoid the debilitating effects of fractures in patients.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / chemically induced
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Time Factors


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones