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J Rheumatol. 2001 Nov;28(11):2395-9.

The effect of low dose methotrexate on bone density.

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Division of Rheumatology, Ottawa Hospital, Ontario, Canada.



High dose methotrexate (MTX) has been linked with bone loss in oncology patients. However, it is unclear whether longterm low dose MTX used in the treatment of inflammatory arthritis is associated with bone loss. We compared the effect of low dose MTX on bone density in prospectively recruited patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis (Ps/PsA).


Thirty RA patients and 30 Ps/PsA patients taking MTX were compared to controls not taking MTX (30 with RA, 27 Ps/PsA). Bone mineral density (BMD) of the radius, lumbar spine, trochanter, and femoral neck was measured using Lunar dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Student t tests were used to detect differences in bone density (using Z scores) of the MTX group versus controls for both the RA and Ps/PsA groups. Analysis of covariance was used to examine for confounders including disease duration, disease activity, age, and sex.


BMD of the radius/femoral neck/trochanter did not differ significantly between the MTX treated groups and controls when analyzed by Z scores. The mean difference between the MTX group and controls of the femoral neck was 0.040 (95% CI -0.40, 0.12) and 0.060 (95% CI -0.30, 0.15) for the RA and Ps/PsA groups, respectively. The absolute BMD of the lumbar spine (L2-L4) was higher in the RA MTX group than in controls. Analysis of covariance did not reveal an effect of study group on bone density.


This study suggests that low dose MTX does not have a negative effect on bone density, at either cortical or trabecular sites.

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