We carried out a 3-year pilot study of 59 consecutive women with osteoporosis of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), allocating them to two groups according to the severity of bone demineralization assessed by means of dual-photon absorptiometry (DPA) of the lumbar spine. Group A (36 patients; bone mineral density [BMD] > 0.800 g/cm2) received no treatment; group B (23 patients; BMD < 0.800 g/cm2) was treated as follows: oral 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (0.5 μg twice a day for 5 days) followed by a 1-month course with oral calcium carbonate (1,500 mg/day) + carbocalcitonin (40 UMRC intramuscularly three times weekly). This treatment was repeated every 3 months. The following parameters were assessed at baseline and every 12 months: DPA, serum and urinary minerals, serum parathyroid hormone (PTH), osteocalcin (BGP), 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
During follow-up, 11 initially untreated patients whose BMD dropped below 0.800 g/cm2 were switched to the treatment group (8 after 12 months and 3 after 24 months). No significant changes were observed in either group for PTH, BGP, or vitamin D metabolites. Comparing patients who were always treated, those who were never treated, and those who switched to the treatment group (ever treated) in this 36-month period, the percentage of annual bone loss in the never-treated patients was significantly less (p < 0.002) than in the ever-treated patients, suggesting the presence of two subgroups in PBC patients; one with rapid bone loss and the other with slow bone loss. Moreover, in the ever-treated patients, ADFR (activate, depress, free, repeat) therapy resulted in an improvement in BMD (p < 0.05 compared with the value before therapy). We conclude that ADFR therapy is effective in the treatment of patients with PBC with severe osteodystrophy, despite no change in osteoblastic activity, although controlled, randomized studies are in order to confirm our data.