Osteoporosis is a common and serious complication of glucocorticoid therapy, resulting in increased risk of fragility fractures. Recent studies indicate that fracture risk is increased even at low doses of glucocorticoids and that this increased risk is seen soon after the commencement of glucocorticoid therapy. Both increased bone resorption and reduced bone formation contribute to bone loss, which affects cortical and cancellous sites. A number of interventions have been shown to prevent glucocorticoid-induced bone loss, although the strongest evidence exists for the bisphosphonates etidronate, alendronate and risedronate. Primary prevention of bone loss should be considered in all high-risk individuals taking oral glucocorticoids for 3 months or more, for example those aged 65 years or over or those with a previous fragility fracture. In other glucocorticoid-treated individuals, the decision to treat should be based on bone densitometry.