Background & aims: Because osteopenia increases morbidity of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), the effects of cyclical etidronate vs. sodium fluoride on bone mass were compared in patients with PBC.
Methods: Thirty-two women with PBC were randomly assigned to receive etidronate (400 mg/day during 14 days every 3 months) or fluoride (50 mg/day, enteric-coated tablets). Bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and proximal femur were measured initially and every 6 months. Bone fractures were also evaluated.
Results: Sixteen patients were allocated into each group, which were comparable with respect to the severity of PBC and osteopenia. Thirteen patients with etidronate and 10 patients with fluoride completed 2 years in the study. In the etidronate group, bone mineral density increased in the lumbar spine (P = 0.02) and did not change in the proximal femur. In the fluoride group, lumbar bone mineral density did not change but femoral bone mass decreased, particularly in the Ward's triangle. Two patients in the fluoride and none in the etidronate group developed new vertebral fractures, and the number of new nonvertebral fractures was similar in both groups. Neither treatment impaired liver function or cholestasis.
Conclusions: Cyclical etidronate is more effective and better tolerated than sodium fluoride in preventing bone loss in PBC.