Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Oral Steroids Quickly Increase Your Risk of Fracture

WebMD Health News

June 7, 2000 -- People with asthma are frequently prescribed oral steroids, but a new study suggests that even three months of relatively low dose treatment can increase the risk of fracture by 70% -- a much faster rate of "bone-wasting" than experts previously predicted.

The good news, however, is that the study also suggests that when the drugs are stopped, the risk decreases with similar speed. This quickness is very surprising, C. Conrad Johnston, MD, an expert on osteoporosis, tells WebMD. Johnston, who is a professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, was not associated with the study.

The drugs associated with this increased risk -- oral corticosteroids -- are prescribed for a number of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, joint disorders, and inflammatory bowel disorder. Johnston says that the link between steroid use and fracture has been known for many years, but most experts believed that the adverse effect was not evident until after prolonged use. This new finding questions that belief, he says.

The researchers analyzed medical records from nearly 250,000 people who were taking oral steroids to the same number of healthy non-users who were the same age and sex. The team of researchers from England, Canada, and the Netherlands followed the users of oral steroids for the entire time they were taking the drugs and for about three months after they received their last prescriptions.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, the researchers report that the steroid users had 20 fractures for every 1,000 people per year, compared to 13 fractures for every 1,000 people for the control group.

There are other factors that can increase fracture risk, such as illness or other drugs, but the researchers write that even after accounting for those other risks, the rate of fractures "was significantly higher among oral corticosteroid users." They also found that when the dose of the oral steroid was increased, the fracture rate also increased.

The results of this study suggest that when a physician prescribes an oral steroid he or she should also prescribe a bisphosphonate such as Fosamax , which is used for treatment of osteoporosis, says Stavros C. Manolagas, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the center for osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease at the University of Arkansas. Bisphosphonates have been shown to help counteract the loss of bone mineral density that is associated with steroids, he says. "It makes perfect sense to start [bisphosphonates] immediately; there is no reason to wait for months," Manolagas says.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
woman wearing cpap mask
red wine pouring into glass
Woman holding inhaler
Man outdoors coughing
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
10 Worst Asthma Cities