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Bone density returns when teens stop using Depo Provera, Group Health study finds

SEATTLE--A new study of the popular injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera shows that teenagers' bone density recovers after they stop using the drug. Several previous studies have linked Depo-Provera to bone loss, raising concerns about its use among teens, a population in their peak bone-building years.

"These findings are reassuring for those concerned about future risk of fractures," said Delia Scholes, PhD, senior investigator at Group Health Cooperative's Center for Health Studies and the study's lead investigator. "This information can be useful in helping young women balance the need to avoid unintended pregnancies with the need to build strong bones."

Scholes' study, which appears in the February 2005 issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, is the first to show that teen-aged Depo-Provera users' bone loss appears to be reversed once young women stop taking the contraceptive. The findings come less than three months after a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue a black box warning on Depo-Provera. The warning states that the drug is associated with bone loss that "may not be completely reversible."

While Scholes and her colleagues found that Depo-Provera use in women aged 14 to 18 was associated with continuous bone density loss at the hip and spine, they also found that users experienced significant gains after they quit using the drug. This provides evidence "that the loss of bone mass is apparently reversed," Scholes concluded.

In 2002, Scholes reported similar results among women aged 18 to 39. However, the current study shows that teen women who discontinued using Depo-Provera appeared to regain their bone density faster than older women did.

Teens use Depo-Provera at higher rates than older women do. About 10 percent of American women aged 15 to 19 who are using birth control use Depo-Provera, compared to just 3 percent of women in the U.S. overall. Given once every
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Contact: Joan DeClaire
declaire.j@ghc.org
206-287-2653
Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies
7-Feb-2005


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