MADRID (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – In Sweden, less than 7% of those who experience an osteoporotic fracture receive osteoporosis treatment within the first year, when the risk of a second fracture is the highest.

Women are more likely than are men to get a prescription, but people older than 80 years, and those with dementia or low socioeconomic status, are less likely to receive one, Anna Spångeus, MD, PhD , said at the European Congress of Rheumatology.

The findings of the national prescription registry review show that, at least from 2006 to 2012, the country was falling far short of the 30% treatment goal set in its osteoporosis treatment guidelines, said Dr. Spångeus of Linköping (Sweden) University Hospital.

She expressed particular concern about the age differential observed in the study. “These drugs are equally as effective in the aged as in younger subjects. … It’s quite reasonable for a women aged 80-85 years to have treatment if she has a lower biological age and a good survival time that would allow her to benefit from the treatment.”

The investigators took advantage of Sweden’s multiple, inked national health registries to examine the rates of new osteoporosis prescriptions in treatment-naive patients who experienced a first osteoporotic bone fracture. Prescribing information came from the Prescribed Drug Register, which covers 100% of outpatient pharmacies. This database doesn’t include medications dispensed in hospitals, though, or intravenous osteoporotic treatments – a weakness of the study, Dr. Spångeus noted. The 6-year study period covered 2006-2012.

In all, almost 260,000 Swedish citizens naive to osteoporosis treatment had an osteoporotic bone fracture during that period. Most of these (68%) were women; the mean age was 73 years. Of these, 16,970 (6.6%) received therapy for osteoporosis within the first year after their fracture.

Vertebral fractures were the most likely to prompt treatment (21%). Only about 5% of all other fracture types prompted an osteoporosis treatment prescription, despite a clear clinical link to the disorder, Dr. Spångeus said. “Almost four times as many patients with clinical vertebral fractures initiated osteoporosis treatment in the year after the fracture. In contrast, treatment after hip fracture was significantly lower, despite the high subsequent risk.”

A good bit of news emerged when she parsed the group by comorbidities: 18% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis got an osteoporosis prescription, suggesting that clinicians were aware of the risk to bone posed by glucocorticoid therapy. Of all fracture patients on glucocorticoids, 17% got a prescription after their break. Only 6% of those not taking glucocorticoids got an osteoporosis medication.

Patients with chronic pulmonary diseases also tended to be treated more often, with about 10% getting a prescription. But those with dementia were much less likely to receive a prescription (1.5%), as were patients with any kind of social dependency – a marker of lower socioeconomic status (2%).

In an age analysis, patients aged 70-80 years were most often treated (19%). The youngest patients (50-60 years) and the oldest (90 and older) were the least likely to be treated (4% and 1.6%). About 6% of those aged 80-90 years were treated.

Women were almost four times more likely to get a prescription than were men (8.5% vs. 2.3%; odds ratio, 3.7). “This was concerning, because about a third of our cohort consisted of men,” Dr. Spångeus said. “Men do develop osteoporotic bone fractures, but this is not being recognized.”

The study was funded by an unrestricted grant from UCB Pharma. Dr. Spångeus disclosed that she has received research funding from Amgen and Eli Lilly.

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