, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 474-484
Date: 23 Nov 2006

Advances in the management of corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis with bisphosphonates

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Corticosteroids are widely used as anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive agents to treat a variety of chronic conditions. Long-term (>1 year) corticosteroid use can lead to bone loss, and therefore, osteopenia or osteoporosis. Corticosteroid-induced osteoporosis (CIO) leads to increased bone fragility and subsequently fractures, which, in turn, lead to a loss of physical, emotional and social health for the patient and increased costs for healthcare providers. A wealth of data exists demonstrating the efficacy of the oral bisphosphonates, etidronate, alendronate and risedronate in increasing bone mineral density in patients with CIO or preventing bone loss in patients commencing corticosteroid therapy. Data regarding fracture prevention are less clear, as statistically significant reductions in the incidence of fractures have only been reported for patient subgroups or meta-analyses. However, many treatment guidelines recommend the use of oral bisphosphonates for the prevention and treatment of CIO. These guidelines are, however, not reflected in prescribing practice, and the majority of patients do not receive adequate concomitant therapy. This review summarizes the available data for bisphosphonates in CIO. Therapeutic adherence with oral bisphosphonates is an issue, with approximately 50% of patients discontinuing therapy within the first year. The primary reasons for this are poor gastrointestinal tolerability and the frequency with which complex dosing requirements must be followed. The inconvenience of taking daily or weekly bisphosphonate therapy is of particular importance in patients with CIO who may be regularly taking several other medications. Data obtained in studies with ibandronate indicate that bisphosphonate administration by rapid intravenous injection provides an effective, well-tolerated and practical alternative to current oral regimens in the management of patients with CIO.