Bisphosphonate therapy – long term use

Recently a study published by Drieling et al in JAGS 2017 described the results of a cohort study of 5120 older women with an average age of 80 yrs and at high fracture risk . This observational study from the Womens Health Initiative included 5120 women who had been using oral BP for at least 2 years and had a FRAX score of 1.5% or higher for 5 yrs. Women who had been on PTH , calcitonin or aromatase inhibitors were excluded. The average follow up data was available for 4 yrs.

10-13 yrs of oral bisphosphonate use was associated with higher risk of any clinical fracture then 2 yrs of use HR =1.29 , 95% CI 1.07-1.57.

There was no association between intermediate use and fracture risk. There are a number of limitations to this observational data including the fact that this study did not include a group without bisphosphonate use also compliance was not evaluated.

Oral BPs have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of vertebral and non vertebral fracture in randomized controlled trials. The extension studies of these fracture trials unfortunately were not powered to evaluate impact on fracture risk and currently we do not have long term data consistently demonstrating reductions in non vertebral fracture risk with long term BP use.

It appears that the optimal period of use for oral or IV bisphosphonates is 3-5 yrs with published randomized controlled trial data confirming reductions in fracture risk for vertebral , non vertebral and hip fracture with use for this time period. After the first 5 years of bisphosphonate use the fracture risk should be re-evaluated and bisphosphonate therapy should also be re-evaluated.

Osteoporosis Canada advises that all patients should have their treatment strategy reviewed by their physicians particularly after 5 years of use as long term use of bisphosphonates may not have the same risk benefit ratio as seen with short term use of up to 5 yrs.

Osteoporosis Canada’s rapid response team, made up of members of the Scientific Advisory Council, creates position statements as news breaks regarding osteoporosis. The position statements are used to inform both the healthcare professional and the patient. The Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) is made up of experts in Osteoporosis and bone metabolism and is a volunteer membership.