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Steroid induced osteoporosis: an opportunity for prevention?
  1. I D Peat,
  2. S Healy,
  3. D M Reid,
  4. S H Ralston
  1. Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine the frequency with which osteoporosis prophylaxis is given to corticosteroid treated hospital inpatients. METHODS--All patients receiving systemic corticosteroids in a large teaching hospital over a three month period were identified through routine prescription monitoring by hospital ward pharmacists. Coprescription of antiosteoporotic therapy was recorded, along with other relevant details such as steroid dose, actual, or intended duration of therapy, and indication for therapy. RESULTS--Corticosteroids were prescribed to 214 patients over the study period, giving an average rate of 2.5 new prescriptions each day. Indications included: chest disease (n = 84; 39.2%), cancer (n = 17; 7.9%), inflammatory bowel disease (n = 16; 7.5%), rheumatoid arthritis/connective tissue disease (n = 16; 7.5%), and renal diseases (n = 7; 3.3%). One hundred and twelve patients (52.3%) were receiving short term steroid therapy (less than four months); 66 (37%) were receiving medium/long term steroid therapy (four months or more). In 36 cases (16.8%) the duration of therapy was unknown. Only 12 of the 214 patients (5.6%) received any form of osteoporosis prophylaxis. The prevalence of prophylaxis was similarly low in postmenopausal women (six of 93; 6.4%) and in patients receiving high dose long term steroid therapy (two of 25; 8%). CONCLUSIONS--Systemic corticosteroids are used frequently in hospital practice for a wide range of indications, but few patients receive co-prescription of prophylaxis against osteoporosis. This is true even in high risk groups such as postmenopausal women and those on high dose long term steroid therapy. Identification of individuals by the mechanism used in this study provides an opportunity by which all corticosteroid treated patients could be detected and offered osteoporosis prophylaxis before serious loss of bone density has occurred.

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