Background : Osteoporosis is a frequent complication in Crohn's disease. Although the efficacy of both sodium fluoride and aminobisphosphonates in postmenopausal osteoporosis has been investigated in long-term therapy studies, no long-term results are available regarding the effect of these agents in the management of osteoporosis in patients with Crohn's disease.

Methods : Eighty-four patients with Crohn's disease and pathological bone mineral density findings were randomized to receive either vitamin D3 (1000 IU) and calcium citrate (800 mg) daily (group A) or sodium fluoride (25 mg b.d., group B) or intravenous ibandronate (1 mg every 3 months, group C) in addition to daily calcium/vitamin D substitution. On admission to the study and after 12 and 27 months, patients underwent dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and radiological examination of the spine.

Results : Sixty-eight patients completed the 1-year observation period and were available for the intention-to-treat analysis. No new vertebral fractures were diagnosed. In group A, lumbar bone density increased by 2.6% (P = 0.066, N.S.), in group B by 5.7% (P = 0.003) and in group C by 5.4% (P = 0.003). Therapy with sodium fluoride was associated with an increase in osteocalcin (N.S.), whereas administration of ibandronate was associated with a decrease in the resorption parameter, carboxy-terminal cross-linked type-I collagen telopeptide (P < 0.05). Both sodium fluoride and ibandronate resulted in significant decreases in the serum concentration of osteoprotegerin after 9 months (P < 0.001).

Conclusions : The findings of the present study show that both sodium fluoride and ibandronate are effective in combination with calcium and vitamin D substitution in the management of osteopenia and osteoporosis in patients with Crohn's disease. Both agents are safe and well tolerated, and induce continuous increases in lumbar bone density.