OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of alendronate and alfacalcidol in the prevention ofglucocorticoid-related osteoporosis in patients with a rheumatic disease. DESIGN: Randomised, double-blind, double-placebo clinical trial (www. clinicaltrials.gov; number: NCT00138983). METHODS: A total of 201 patients with rheumatic disease who were starting glucocorticoid treatment at a daily dose that was equivalent to at least 7.5 mg of prednisone were randomised to alendronate (10 mg) and a placebo capsule ofalfacalcidol daily (n = 100) or alfacalcidol (1 microg) and a placebo tablet ofalendronate daily (n = 101) for 18 months. Primary outcome was change in lumbar spine bone mineral density at 18 months. The main secondary outcome was the incidence of morphometrically confirmed vertebral deformities. RESULTS: Overall, 163 patients completed the study. The bone mineral density of the lumbar spine increased by 2.1% (95% CI: 1.1-3.1) in the alendronate group and decreased by 1.9% (95% CI: -3.I--0.7) in the alfacalcidol group. At 18 months the mean difference in change in bone mineral density between the two groups was 4.0% (95% CI: 2.4-5-5). Three patients in the alendronate group had a new vertebral deformity, compared with 8 patients in the alfacalcidol group, including 5 symptomatic vertebral fractures in 3 patients; the hazard ratio was 0.4 (95% CI: 0.1-1.4). CONCLUSION: Alendronate was more effective than alfacalcidol in preventing glucocorticoid-induced bone loss during this 18-month trial in patients with rheumatic diseases who were starting glucocorticoid treatment
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