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Menopause. 2004 Nov-Dec;11(6 Pt 1):622-30.

Changes in bone density and turnover after alendronate or estrogen withdrawal.

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Radiant Research-Honolulu, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA.



To compare bone mineral density (BMD) and bone turnover changes after therapy withdrawal in postmenopausal women treated with alendronate or estrogen-progestin.


In this randomized, blinded, multinational, placebo-controlled trial, 1,609 healthy postmenopausal women ages 45 to 59 years were assigned to receive alendronate, placebo, or open-label estrogen-progestin (conjugated equine estrogens plus medroxyprogesterone acetate or a cyclic regimen of 17 beta-estradiol, norethisterone acetate and estradiol). Of the original women, one third after year 2 and one third after year 4 were switched from alendronate to placebo, while remaining blinded to treatment assignment. The women taking estrogen-progestin in years 1 to 4 were followed off therapy in years 5 and 6. BMD at the lumbar spine and hip and biochemical markers of bone turnover were measured.


The treatment groups described in the current report represent 860 women at baseline; 481 women entered year 5, and 430 completed 6 years. BMD steadily decreased in the placebo group during all 6 years. In contrast, spine and hip BMD increased during the first 4 years in the groups receiving daily continuous alendronate 5 mg and estrogen-progestin. During years 5 and 6, BMD decreased at the lumbar spine -2.42% (95% CI = -4.10, -0.74) and total hip -1.09% (-2.60, 0.41) in the group previously treated with alendronate 5 mg for 4 years. In comparison, large BMD decreases were observed at the spine [-7.69% (-8.96, -6.41)] and total hip [-5.16% (-6.30, -4.01)] among women who had received estrogen-progestin for 4 years.


Alendronate produces greater residual skeletal effects than estrogen-progestin after therapy discontinuation.

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