Background: Although many studies have assessed the effects of estrogen and raloxifene hydrochloride on bone mineral density and serum lipid concentrations, there are few direct comparative data.
Methods: Randomized placebo-controlled trial for 3 years, intention-to-treat analysis. Six hundred nineteen postmenopausal women with prior hysterectomy (mean age, 53.0 years) were studied in 38 centers in Europe, North America, Australasia, and South Africa. They were randomized to 60 mg/d or 150 mg/d of raloxifene, 0.625 mg/d of conjugated equine estrogen (CEE), or placebo. Bone density of the lumbar spine and proximal femur, biochemical markers of bone turnover, and fasting serum lipid concentrations were assessed for 3 years.
Results: Compared with baseline, bone density in the lumbar spine progressively declined by 2.0% in the placebo group (P <.05), was stable in the 2 raloxifene groups, and increased 4.6% in the subjects receiving CEE (P <.001). Effects in both raloxifene groups were different from those observed in the CEE and placebo groups (P <.001). Bone density in the total hip showed similar results. Conjugated equine estrogen produced significantly greater depression of serum osteocalcin, bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, and urine C-telopeptide, compared with raloxifene. Each of the active treatments caused comparable depression of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol below placebo levels (P <.001 at most time points). Raloxifene did not affect high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, whereas CEE increased it by 13.4% compared with placebo at 3 years (P <.001). Triglyceride concentrations increased 24.6% in the CEE group at 3 years (P <.003), a significantly greater change than in the raloxifene groups, which were 4.9% and 8.0% above baseline (P < or =.002) but not different from placebo. Urinary incontinence was reported in 11 women receiving CEE, but in only 1 or 2 in each of the other groups (P < or =.01 compared with the other groups). Hernias occurred less frequently in those receiving 150 mg/d of raloxifene or CEE (P =.03 vs placebo).
Conclusions: Raloxifene and CEE have beneficial effects on bone density and bone turnover, although effects of CEE are more marked. Raloxifene and CEE produce different patterns of lipid responses and have distinct adverse effect profiles.