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Alendronate in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with methotrexate and glucocorticoids

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic inflammatory disease. Along with synovial joint inflammation, extra-articular involvement is a common feature of RA. Periarticular and generalized osteoporosis are seen both as an extra-articular feature of the disease itself and due to various medications like glucocorticoids and methotrexate (MTX). In this study, we investigated the effects of oral alendronate in RA patients treated with MTX and prednisolone by comparing the effects of “alendronate+calcium” and “only calcium” on bone mineral density (BMD). Fifty RA patients classified according to American Rheumatism Association (ARA) criteria were included in the study. The control group consisted of 20 postmenopausal osteoporotic patients. The RA patients were divided randomly into two groups. All patients were started on MTX 7.5 mg/week, 2.5-mg daily folic acid, and 7.5-mg daily prednisolone. The first group, consisting of 25 female RA patients, was also given 10-mg daily alendronate and 1000-mg daily calcium. The second group also consisted of 25 female patients and was given only 1000-mg calcium per day. The postmenopausal control group was given daily 10-mg alendronate and 1000-mg calcium. Bone mineral densities were measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) and again at the end of the sixth month. At the end of the study, RA patients given only calcium had reduced mean BMD, and patients treated with alendronate and calcium showed increased mean BMD almost in all regions. This increase was significant in the L2 and L1–4 total regions. In postmenopausal osteoporotic patients, we saw statistically significant increases in BMD in all regions. The increase in BMD values in RA patients treated with alendronate was smaller than in those of the control group of postmenopausal osteoporosis patients. In conclusion, RA itself has a risk factor for osteoporosis in addition to the risks of the medications like corticosteroids and MTX. In the prevention and treatment of RA-associated osteoporosis, alendronate and calcium therapy is effective and well tolerated.

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Received: 16 June 2000 / Accepted: 20 August 2000

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Yilmaz, L., Özoran, K., Gündüz, O. et al. Alendronate in rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with methotrexate and glucocorticoids. Rheumatology International 20, 65–69 (2001).

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