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Ann Rheum Dis. 2003 Apr;62(4):350-2.

Oral corticosteroid prescribing in women over 50, use of fracture prevention therapy, and bone densitometry service.

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  • 1Charles Salt Centre for Human Metabolism, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital, Oswestry, Shropshire SY10 7AG, UK.



To identify the most common diseases and age of corticosteroid use in women over 50, dosage in last year, duration of oral corticosteroid use, prescription for fracture prevention (drug used), and referrals for bone densitometry.


General practice records from 41 practices in Shropshire identified 62,230 women aged >50 from a population of 80,082. Data on fractures, duration of corticosteroid use, dose in the study year (1 April 1997-31 March 1998), use of fracture prevention therapy and bone densitometry were sampled from one out of three records.


3.2% were prescribed corticosteroids; 633 patients investigated in detail aged 70.1 (SD 10.5) years, had been prescribed 1526 (SD 1727) mg prednisolone (median 1040 mg) for 3.31 (SD 3.20) years (median 2.0 years). Patients with asthma/lung disease, most common in the younger group, had the lowest annual corticosteroid use; patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), polymyalgia rheumatica/temporal arteritis (PMR/TA), who were more likely to be elderly, had the highest annual use. Between the age of 70 and 79 years patients with RA had significantly more hip fractures than the other groups, and corticosteroid prescribing was most common. Bisphosphonates or hormone replacement therapy were prescribed for 48% aged 50-59 years but only 32% at 70-79 years (p<0.01); patients with asthma and RA being less likely recipients (p<0.01). Referrals for bone densitometry had occurred in 20.2%,with 60.2% having osteoporosis. Referrals were more common in those taking corticosteroids for longer periods (p<0.01).


The elderly had the most prescriptions for corticosteroid treatment but the fewest for effective fracture prevention therapy. Patients with RA, PMR/TA had the greatest corticosteroid dosage, for the longest time. Patients with RA sustained more hip fractures than other groups but were least likely to have effective fracture prevention therapy prescribed.

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