Diagnosis and Treatment of Osteoporosis

Am Fam Physician. 2009 Feb 1;79(3):193-200.

  Related Editorial

  Patient information: See related handout on osteoporosis, written by the authors of this article.

Osteoporosis affects approximately 8 million women and 2 million men in the United States. The associated fractures are a common and preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in up to 50 percent of older women. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends using dual energy x-ray absorptiometry to screen all women 65 years and older and women 60 to 64 years of age who have increased fracture risk. Some organizations recommend considering screening in all men 70 years and older. For persons with osteoporosis diagnosed by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry or previous fragility fracture, effective first-line treatment consists of fall prevention, adequate intake of calcium (at least 1,200 mg per day) and vitamin D (at least 700 to 800 IU per day), and treatment with a bisphosphonate. Raloxifene, calcitonin, teriparatide, or hormone therapy may be considered for certain subsets of patients.

Approximately 8 million women and 2 million men in the United States have osteoporosis, and 34 million persons have osteopenia.1 About one in two white women will experience an osteoporotic fracture in her lifetime.2,3 Osteoporosis also occurs in older men, who have a higher mortality from hip fractures and a lower frequency of screening and treatment.4,5 Overall, hip fractures cause an excess mortality of 10 to 20 percent at 12 months, and up to 25 percent of patients with hip fractures require long-term nursing home care.2 In 2002, the cost of a hip fracture was estimated to be $34,000 to $43,000, with the annual cost of all osteoporotic fractures as high as $18 billion.1

Despite broadly accepted screening, diagnosis, and treatment guidelines, there is a large gap between knowledge and effective clinical practice. One study showed that only 49 percent of women were evaluated or treated in accordance with accepted guidelines.5

SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Clinical recommendation Evidence rating References

Prevention of fractures and treatment of osteoporosis

Older persons at risk of falls should consider exercise, physical therapy, home hazard assessment, and withdrawal of psychotropic medication to decrease fall risk.

B

26, 27

Daily vitamin D supplementation (at least 700 to 800 IU), with or without calcium, should be used to decrease fracture risk in persons 60 years and older.

B

15, 31

Bisphosphonates should be used to prevent osteoporotic fractures (see Table 5 for specific indications).

A

14, 16, 17, 21, 33, 34

Raloxifene (Evista) can be used to prevent vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, especially if at high risk of breast cancer.

A

22, 33, 34

Calcitonin (Miacalcin) can be used to prevent recurrent vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women.

B

23, 34

Teriparatide (Forteo) can be used to prevent vertebral and nonvertebral fractures in postmenopausal women with prior vertebral fractures.

A

24, 34

Screening

The following populations should be screened for osteoporosis:

All women 65 years and older

A

2, 3

Selected postmenopausal women and men 50 to 69 years of age with risk factors for fracture

C

2, 13

All men 70 years and older

C

2, 13


A = consistent, good-quality patient-oriented evidence; B = inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence; C = consensus, disease-oriented evidence, usual practice, expert opinion, or case series. For information about the SORT evidence rating system, go to http://www.aafp.org/afpsort.

SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

View Table

SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE

Clinical recommendation Evidence rating References

Prevention of fractures and treatment of osteoporosis

Older persons at risk of falls should consider exercise, physical therapy, home hazard assessment, and withdrawal of psychotropic medication to decrease fall risk.

B

26, 27

Daily vitamin D supplementation (at least 700 to 800 IU), with or without calcium, should be used to decrease fracture risk in persons 60 years and older.

B

15, 31

Bisphosphonates should be used to prevent osteoporotic fractures (see Table 5 for specific indications).

A

14, 16, 17, 21, 33, 34

Raloxifene (Evista) can be used to prevent vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, especially if at high risk of breast cancer.

A

22, 33, 34

Calcitonin (Miacalcin) can be used to prevent recurrent vertebral fractures in postmenopausal women.

B

23, 34

Teriparatide (Forteo) can be used to prevent vertebral and nonvertebral fractures in postmenopausal women with prior vertebral fractures.

A

24, 34

Screening

The following populations should be screened for osteoporosis:

All women 65 years and older

A

2, 3

Selected postmenopausal women and men 50 to 69 years of age with risk factors for fracture

C

2, 13

All men 70 years and older

C

2, 13


A = consistent, good-quality patient-oriented evidence; B = inconsistent or limited-quality patient-oriented evidence; C = consensus, disease-oriented evidence, usual practice, expert opinion, or case series. For information about the SORT evidence rating system, go to http://www.aafp.org/afpsort.

Definition

Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to an increased risk of fractures. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines osteoporosis as a spinal or hip bone mineral density (BMD) of 2.5 standard deviations or more below the mean for healthy, young women (T-score of −2.5 or below) as measured by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).6 Osteopenia is defined as a spinal or hip BMD between 1 and 2.5 standard deviations below the mean.3,6

Primary osteoporosis is the result of bone loss related to the decline in gonadal function associated with aging.6  Selected factors that are associated with fracture or low BMD are listed in Table 1.2,3  Secondary osteoporosis may result from chronic diseases, exposures, or nutritional deficiencies that adversely impact bone metabolism. Causes of secondary osteoporosis are listed in Table 2.1,2,6,7

Table 1.

Selected Factors Associated with Fracture or Low Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women

Increasing age

Low body weight (< 127 lb [58 kg])

Personal history of fracture

Family history of osteoporotic fracture

Not using hormone therapy

White or Asian race

Excessive alcohol (> 2 drinks per day), caffeine, and tobacco use

History of falls

Low level of physical activity

Low calcium or vitamin D intake

Use of certain medications or presence of certain medical conditions (Table 2)


Information from references 2 and 3.

Table 1.   Selected Factors Associated with Fracture or Low Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women

View Table

Table 1.

Selected Factors Associated with Fracture or Low Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women

Increasing age

Low body weight (< 127 lb [58 kg])

Personal history of fracture

Family history of osteoporotic fracture

Not using hormone therapy

White or Asian race

Excessive alcohol (> 2 drinks per day), caffeine, and tobacco use

History of falls

Low level of physical activity

Low calcium or vitamin D intake

Use of certain medications or presence of certain medical conditions (Table 2)


Information from references 2 and 3.

Table 2.

Causes of Secondary Osteoporosis

Cause Examples

Chronic medical and systemic diseases

Amyloidosis

Ankylosing spondylitis

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

Inflammatory bowel diseases

Liver disease (severe)

Multiple myeloma

Renal insufficiency or renal failure

Rheumatoid arthritis

Systemic lupus erythematosus

Endocrine and metabolic disorders

Athletic amenorrhea

Cushing syndrome

Diabetes mellitus, type 1

Hemochromatosis

Hyperadrenocorticism

Hyperparathyroidism (primary)

Hyperthyroidism

Hypogonadism (primary and secondary)

Hypophosphatasia

Medication

Anticonvulsants (e.g., phenobarbital, phenytoin [Dilantin])

Drugs causing hypogonadism (e.g., parenteral progesterone, methotrexate, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists)

Glucocorticoids

Heparin (long-term)

Immunosuppressants (e.g., cyclosporine [Sandimmune], tacrolimus [Prograf])

Lithium

Thyroid hormone excess

Nutrition

Alcohol (> 2 drinks per day)

Anorexia nervosa

Celiac disease

Gastric bypass or gastrectomy

Vitamin D deficiency


Information from references 1, 2, 6, and 7.

Table 2.   Causes of Secondary Osteoporosis

View Table

Table 2.

Causes of Secondary Osteoporosis

Cause Examples

Chronic medical and systemic diseases

Amyloidosis

Ankylosing spondylitis

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

Inflammatory bowel diseases

Liver disease (severe)

Multiple myeloma

Renal insufficiency or renal failure

Rheumatoid arthritis

Systemic lupus erythematosus

Endocrine and metabolic disorders

Athletic amenorrhea

Cushing syndrome

Diabetes mellitus, type 1

Hemochromatosis

Hyperadrenocorticism

Hyperparathyroidism (primary)

Hyperthyroidism

Hypogonadism (primary and secondary)

Hypophosphatasia

Medication

Anticonvulsants (e.g., phenobarbital, phenytoin [Dilantin])

Drugs causing hypogonadism (e.g., parenteral progesterone, methotrexate, gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists)

Glucocorticoids

Heparin (long-term)

Immunosuppressants (e.g., cyclosporine [Sandimmune], tacrolimus [Prograf])

Lithium

Thyroid hormone excess

Nutrition

Alcohol (> 2 drinks per day)

Anorexia nervosa

Celiac disease

Gastric bypass or gastrectomy

Vitamin D deficiency


Information from references 1, 2, 6, and 7.

Screening Recommendations for Practice

Published guidelines that address screening criteria vary because of gaps in evidence and differences in the way guidelines are formulated (i.e., evidence-based versus expert opinion). The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guideline, based on a systematic review of the evidence, recommends screening DEXA in all women 65 years and older, as well as in women 60 to 64 years of age who have increased fracture risk. The USPSTF states that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against screening in postmenopausal women younger than 60 years.3  The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), which receives substantial support from the pharmaceutical industry, developed a guideline using an expert panel that recommends screening in women 65 years and older, men 70 years and older, adults with a fracture, and selected post-menopausal women and men with clinical risk factors for fracture (Table 12,3).2

It is reasonable to clinically assess age and risk factors when deciding which women to screen. Validated clinical rules, such as the Simple Calculated Osteoporosis Risk Estimation (SCORE) tool, may be considered as well. The SCORE tool is a six-item instrument with a sensitivity of 91 percent and a specificity of 40 percent. It is used to predict which women may benefit from DEXA screening.8 This calculator may be found at http://osteoed.org/tools.php

The USPSTF found that, for women 55 to 59 years of age, the number needed to screen (NNS) over five years was more than 4,000 to prevent one hip fracture and 1,300 to prevent one vertebral fracture. The NNS to prevent one hip fracture over five years declines with age, to 1,856 for women 60 to 64 years of age, 731 for women 65 to 69 years of age, and 143 for women 75 to 79 years of age.9

Diagnosis

Osteoporosis is diagnosed clinically or radiographically. Osteoporosis may present with low-impact fractures (occurring from a fall at or below standing height) or fragility fractures (occurring spontaneously).7 Osteoporosis is most commonly diagnosed with a T-score of −2.5 or below as determined by central DEXA scan of the total hip, femoral neck, or lumbar spine.2,3,6 Quantitative computed tomography can be used to assess BMD, but is limited by radiation exposure and cost. Quantitative calcaneal ultrasonography and peripheral DEXA, which measures BMD in the heel, finger, and forearm, are more portable and less costly than central DEXA and can effectively predict fracture risk. Their results, however, do not correlate well enough with central DEXA to be used diagnostically, and they have not been shown to be useful in monitoring treatment over time.10 Biochemical markers of bone turnover in the serum or urine are not currently recommended for diagnosis.6,11

Evaluating for Suspected Secondary Osteoporosis

The number of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis from a secondary cause is unknown, but thought to be low. A careful history and physical examination may identify common causes of secondary osteoporosis. If clinical evaluation does not raise suspicion of a secondary cause, there is currently little evidence to warrant additional testing in postmenopausal women.12

In contrast, approximately 50 percent of pre- and perimenopausal women with osteoporosis have an associated underlying cause.12 There are no evidence-based guidelines to direct the evaluation of a suspected secondary cause of osteoporosis.11,12  In pre- and perimenopausal women, a basic laboratory evaluation should be considered if there is no clear etiology evident by history and physical examination (Table 37).

Table 3.

Evaluation for Suspected Secondary Osteoporosis in Selected Patients

Test Possible etiology

Initial screening tests

Chemistry panel

Alkaline phosphatase

High levels in Paget disease, immobilization

Calcium

Low levels in vitamin D deficiency, malabsorption High levels in hyperparathyroidism

Liver or kidney function

Liver or kidney disease

Complete blood count

Bone marrow malignancy, malabsorption

Thyroid-stimulating hormone

Hyperthyroidism

Total testosterone (men)

Hypogonadism

25-hydroxyvitamin D (men)

Vitamin D deficiency

Additional tests (based on level of severity of osteoporosis or clinical suspicion of underlying disease)

Estradiol (pre- or perimenopausal women)

Hypogonadism

Intact parathyroid hormone

Hyperparathyroidism

Serum protein electrophoresis

Multiple myeloma

25-hydroxyvitamin D (women)

Vitamin D deficiency


Adapted with permission from Mauck KF, Clarke BL. Diagnosis, screening, prevention, and treatment of osteoporosis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006;81(5):665.

Table 3.   Evaluation for Suspected Secondary Osteoporosis in Selected Patients

View Table

Table 3.

Evaluation for Suspected Secondary Osteoporosis in Selected Patients

Test Possible etiology

Initial screening tests

Chemistry panel

Alkaline phosphatase

High levels in Paget disease, immobilization

Calcium

Low levels in vitamin D deficiency, malabsorption High levels in hyperparathyroidism

Liver or kidney function

Liver or kidney disease

Complete blood count

Bone marrow malignancy, malabsorption

Thyroid-stimulating hormone

Hyperthyroidism

Total testosterone (men)

Hypogonadism

25-hydroxyvitamin D (men)

Vitamin D deficiency

Additional tests (based on level of severity of osteoporosis or clinical suspicion of underlying disease)

Estradiol (pre- or perimenopausal women)

Hypogonadism

Intact parathyroid hormone

Hyperparathyroidism

Serum protein electrophoresis

Multiple myeloma

25-hydroxyvitamin D (women)

Vitamin D deficiency


Adapted with permission from Mauck KF, Clarke BL. Diagnosis, screening, prevention, and treatment of osteoporosis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006;81(5):665.

Screening and Diagnosis of Osteoporosis in Men

In the United States, one in eight men will have an osteoporotic fracture in his lifetime, accounting for 30 percent of hip fractures and 18 percent of the total annual cost of osteoporosis.1,4 Men have nearly twice the mortality from hip fractures compared with women.1,4,13 Because data on the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis in men are limited, most published recommendations are based on expert opinion.7,12 The NOF and the International Society for Clinical Densitometry recommend screening all men 70 years and older and men 50 to 69 years of age with risk factors (the USPSTF guidelines do not address screening in men).2,13 Based on a recent systematic review, the American College of Physicians also recommends that older men be periodically assessed for risk of osteoporosis and have DEXA performed if at increased risk.14 The validity of using a T-score of −2.5 or below as the diagnostic criterion for osteoporosis in men is unclear, but this is a commonly used standard.12,13 Approximately 50 percent of men with osteoporosis have a secondary cause and warrant additional evaluation, along with a careful history and physical examination.7,12 In addition to treating any underlying cause, interventions proposed by experts are similar to those for women, as discussed below.

Indications for Treatment

Recommendations about which persons with osteoporosis should receive treatment vary.2,6 The NOF recommends treatment of postmenopausal women and men with a personal history of hip or vertebral fracture, T-score of −2.5 or below, or low bone mass (T-score between −1 and −2.5) and a 10-year probability of hip fracture of at least 3 percent or any major fracture of at least 20 percent.2 The 10-year probability of fracture is calculated using the WHO fracture risk assessment tool (http://osteoed.org/tools.php). The WHO recommendations are less specific, and they differ from those of the NOF. The WHO recommends treating persons with or at risk of osteoporosis.6 Table 4 summarizes the effectiveness of different pharmacologic approaches to treatment.1524  Table 5 summarizes prescribing and cost information for medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).25

Table 4.

Therapy Outcomes for Postmenopausal Women with Osteoporosis

Therapy Number needed to treat to decrease the risk of fracture

Hip fracture

Vitamin D (700 to 800 IU per day)15

45 for 2 to 5 years*

Alendronate (Fosamax)16

91 for 3 years†

Risedronate (Actonel)17

77 for 3 years*

Zoledronic acid (Reclast)18

91 for 3 years*

Hormone therapy19

385 for 5 years*

Vertebral fracture

Alendronate16

37 for 3 years†

Ibandronate (Boniva)20

20 for 3 years†

Risedronate21

15 for 3 years‡

Zoledronic acid18

13 for 3 years*

Raloxifene (Evista)22

29 for 3 years*

Calcitonin (Miacalcin)23

10 for 5 years†

Teriparatide (Forteo)24

11 for 1.5 years†


note: There were differences in the study populations (age, T-scores, and presence or absence of previous vertebral fractures) in these studies.

*— This study included women with and without a previous vertebral fracture (primary and secondary prevention).

†— This study included only women who had a previous vertebral fracture (secondary prevention).

‡— This study included only women who did not have a previous vertebral fracture (primary prevention).

Information from references 15 through 24.

Table 4.   Therapy Outcomes for Postmenopausal Women with Osteoporosis

View Table

Table 4.

Therapy Outcomes for Postmenopausal Women with Osteoporosis

Therapy Number needed to treat to decrease the risk of fracture

Hip fracture

Vitamin D (700 to 800 IU per day)15

45 for 2 to 5 years*

Alendronate (Fosamax)16

91 for 3 years†

Risedronate (Actonel)17

77 for 3 years*

Zoledronic acid (Reclast)18

91 for 3 years*

Hormone therapy19

385 for 5 years*

Vertebral fracture

Alendronate16

37 for 3 years†

Ibandronate (Boniva)20

20 for 3 years†

Risedronate21

15 for 3 years‡

Zoledronic acid18

13 for 3 years*

Raloxifene (Evista)22

29 for 3 years*

Calcitonin (Miacalcin)23

10 for 5 years†

Teriparatide (Forteo)24

11 for 1.5 years†


note: There were differences in the study populations (age, T-scores, and presence or absence of previous vertebral fractures) in these studies.

*— This study included women with and without a previous vertebral fracture (primary and secondary prevention).

†— This study included only women who had a previous vertebral fracture (secondary prevention).

‡— This study included only women who did not have a previous vertebral fracture (primary prevention).

Information from references 15 through 24.

Table 5.

Medications Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Osteoporosis

Indication Medication Typical dosage Route Fracture type Monthly cost*

Prevention

Estrogen†, with or without progesterone

0.625 mg daily

Oral

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

With progesterone: $40 Without progesterone: $47

Prevention and treatment

Alendronate (Fosamax)

70 mg weekly

Oral

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

Tablet: $87, $77 (generic) Solution: $96

Ibandronate (Boniva)

150 mg monthly

Oral

Vertebral

$100

Risedronate (Actonel)

35 mg weekly

Oral

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

$92

Raloxifene (Evista)

60 mg daily

Oral

Vertebral

$108

Treatment

Ibandronate

3 mg every three months for four doses

Intravenous

Increases bone mineral density, but fracture end point not evaluated

$162‡

Zoledronic acid (Reclast)

5 mg annually for three doses

Intravenous

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

$104

Calcitonin (Miacalcin)

200 IU daily

Nasal

Vertebral

$126

Teriparatide (Forteo)

20 mcg daily up to two years

Subcutaneous

Vertebral, nonvertebral

$675


*— Estimated cost to the pharmacist based on average wholesale prices (rounded to the nearest dollar) in Red Book. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Data; 2008. Cost to the patient will be higher, depending on prescription filling fee. Costs are for brand name drugs only, unless otherwise indicated.

†— Hormone therapy is only appropriate in women with significant vasomotor symptoms for whom benefit outweighs risk.

‡— Cost per 3-mg dose (given once every three months).

Information from reference 25.

Table 5.   Medications Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Osteoporosis

View Table

Table 5.

Medications Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Osteoporosis

Indication Medication Typical dosage Route Fracture type Monthly cost*

Prevention

Estrogen†, with or without progesterone

0.625 mg daily

Oral

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

With progesterone: $40 Without progesterone: $47

Prevention and treatment

Alendronate (Fosamax)

70 mg weekly

Oral

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

Tablet: $87, $77 (generic) Solution: $96

Ibandronate (Boniva)

150 mg monthly

Oral

Vertebral

$100

Risedronate (Actonel)

35 mg weekly

Oral

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

$92

Raloxifene (Evista)

60 mg daily

Oral

Vertebral

$108

Treatment

Ibandronate

3 mg every three months for four doses

Intravenous

Increases bone mineral density, but fracture end point not evaluated

$162‡

Zoledronic acid (Reclast)

5 mg annually for three doses

Intravenous

Hip, vertebral, nonvertebral

$104

Calcitonin (Miacalcin)

200 IU daily

Nasal

Vertebral

$126

Teriparatide (Forteo)

20 mcg daily up to two years

Subcutaneous

Vertebral, nonvertebral

$675


*— Estimated cost to the pharmacist based on average wholesale prices (rounded to the nearest dollar) in Red Book. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Data; 2008. Cost to the patient will be higher, depending on prescription filling fee. Costs are for brand name drugs only, unless otherwise indicated.

†— Hormone therapy is only appropriate in women with significant vasomotor symptoms for whom benefit outweighs risk.

‡— Cost per 3-mg dose (given once every three months).

Information from reference 25.

Nonpharmacologic Treatment

FALL PREVENTION

A multifactorial approach that addresses vision deficits, balance and gait abnormalities, cognitive impairment, and dizziness is the cornerstone of fall prevention. Improving lighting; removing loose rugs; and adding grab bars near bathtubs, toilets, and stairways can enhance safety.26 Formal home safety evaluations and physical therapy treatments are beneficial.27 Eliminating medications that can affect alertness and balance is critical.26,27 The use of hip protectors is no longer considered effective.28,29

CALCIUM

The results of studies examining the effectiveness of calcium on fracture risk are mixed, but one subgroup from a recent meta-analysis showed decreased fracture rates in older women with 80 percent or greater adherence to calcium supplementation.30 A daily intake of at least 1,200 mg of calcium is recommended for all women with osteoporosis.2,12 A detailed list of dietary sources of calcium can be found at http://www.nos.org.uk, under “Building Healthy Bones.”

Most postmenopausal women consume inadequate amounts of dietary calcium; therefore, supplementation is needed. For optimal absorption, a single dose of calcium supplement should contain 500 mg or less of elemental calcium, necessitating multiple daily doses. Calcium carbonate is the least expensive, requires acid for absorption, and should be taken with meals. Calcium citrate is more expensive and does not need to be taken with meals. All calcium supplements may cause constipation and gastrointestinal upset.7 The absorption of numerous medications, most notably levothyroxine, fluoroquinolones, tetracycline, phenytoin (Dilantin), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, iron, and bisphosphonates, can be significantly decreased when given with calcium. These medications should be given several hours before or after calcium supplements.7

VITAMIN D

The NOF recommends 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily for persons 50 years and older.2 Daily intake of at least 700 to 800 IU of vitamin D is shown to prevent hip fractures in older persons,31 with a number needed to treat (NNT) of 45 over two to five years of treatment.15 Because it is difficult to consume this amount of dietary vitamin D, supplementation is important.

For patients with documented vitamin D deficiency, oral ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) in a dosage of 50,000 IU weekly for eight weeks is usually an effective treatment. This should be followed by a maintenance dosage of 50,000 IU every two to four weeks ororal cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) in a dosage of 1,000 IU once daily. The goal of treatment is a sustained serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level greater than 30 ng per mL (74 nmol per L).32 Measurement of serum levels following treatment is important because of the possible risk of vitamin D toxicity, but the optimal interval for testing is not known. Multiple alternative strategies for treating vitamin D deficiency exist.32

Pharmacologic Treatment

BISPHOSPHONATES

Oral bisphosphonates inhibit osteoclastic activity and are potent antiresorptive agents. Randomized clinical trials demonstrate a reduction of vertebral and hip fractures with alendronate (Fosamax)16,33,34 and risedronate (Actonel).17,21,33,34 Alendronate and risedronate have also demonstrated effectiveness in men35,36 and in glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.37,38 Both daily and intermittent uses of ibandronate (Boniva) have demonstrated antifracture effectiveness at the spine only.20,34 As age increases, the NNT to prevent all types of fractures decreases.9

Weekly and monthly dosing make taking bisphosphonates easier. Nevertheless, nonadherence is problematic and is associated with worse outcomes.39 Oral bisphosphonates must be taken with a full glass of water. A 30- to 60-minute wait is required before reclining or consuming other medications, beverages, or food to lower the risk of upper gastrointestinal adverse effects.

The optimal length of oral bisphosphonate therapy is unknown. A recent study found that women who take alendronate for five years followed by five years of placebo have no increase in the incidence of nonvertebral or hip fractures compared with women who take alendronate for 10 years. There is, however, an increase in vertebral fractures.40 This suggests that relatively low-risk women (i.e., no personal history of vertebral fractures and only modestly reduced T-score) may consider an interruption in bisphosphonate treatment.

The intravenous bisphosphonates currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis are zoledronic acid (Reclast), given 5 mg yearly (shown to decrease vertebral and hip fractures),18,34 and ibandronate, given 3 mg every three months (shown only to increase BMD in the intravenous form; the oral form has been shown to decrease vertebral fractures).41 Although the cost of these medications is high, use may prove to be an attractive strategy for high-risk patients who are unable to tolerate or are noncompliant with oral therapy, or those currently hospitalized for hip fracture.

Recent concerns have been raised about the association of bisphosphonates with osteonecrosis of the jaw. To date, this rare complication is most often associated with the frequent infusion of intravenous bisphosphonates in patients with cancer.42

RALOXIFENE

Raloxifene (Evista), a selective estrogen receptor modulator, is approved for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Raloxifene has estrogen agonist activity on the bones and lipids, and an estrogen antagonist effect on the breast and uterus. Raloxifene is effective for reducing the incidence of vertebral fractures, but effectiveness at the hip has not been shown.22,33,34 Raloxifene is commonly associated with increased vasomotor symptoms. Although raloxifene increases the risk of venous thromboembolism, it is indicated to decrease the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Perhaps it may be best used in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who are unable to tolerate bisphosphonates, have no vasomotor symptoms or history of venous thromboembolism, and have a high breast cancer risk score.

CALCITONIN

Calcitonin nasal spray (Miacalcin) is an antiresorptive agent approved for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis at a dosage of 200 IU in alternating nostrils each day. It is shown to decrease the occurrence of vertebral compression fractures, but not nonvertebral or hip fractures.23,34 Although calcitonin has modest analgesic properties in the setting of acute and chronic vertebral compression fracture,43 it is not considered first-line treatment for osteoporosis because more effective medications are available.7

TERIPARATIDE

Teriparatide (Forteo) is a recombinant human parathyroid hormone with potent bone anabolic activity. In a dosage of 20 mcg per day given subcutaneously for up to two years, teriparatide decreases vertebral and nonvertebral fractures.24,34 Adverse effects may include orthostatic hypotension, transient hypercalcemia, nausea, arthralgia, and leg cramps. Increased risk of osteosarcoma is seen in rats exposed to high doses. Consequently, teriparatide is contraindicated in patients with risk of osteosarcoma, such as those with Paget disease, previous skeletal radiation, or unexplained elevation of alkaline phosphatase level. Teriparatide is approved for the treatment of postmenopausal women with severe bone loss, men with osteoporosis who have a high risk of fractures, and persons who have not improved on bisphosphonate therapy. One study suggests that it is advisable to follow teriparatide therapy with bisphosphonate therapy to maintain BMD gained.44

HORMONE THERAPY

The Women’s Health Initiative confirmed that estrogen, with or without progesterone, slightly reduced the risk of hip and vertebral fractures, but found that this benefit did not outweigh the increased risk of stroke, venous thromboembolism, coronary heart disease, and breast cancer, even for women at high risk of fractures.19 Lower doses of conjugated equine estrogens and estradiol have been shown to improve BMD, but the reduced risk of fracture has not been demonstrated45 and the safety is unknown. The FDA recommends hormone therapy for osteoporosis only in women with moderate or severe vasomotor symptoms, using the lowest effective dose for the shortest time.

COMBINATION THERAPY

Bisphosphonates do not have additive effects on BMD when used concomitantly with parathyroid hormone,44 but they do have additive effects on BMD when combined with hormone therapy.45,46 Antifracture effectiveness of these combinations has not been shown. Although research continues, there is currently a limited role for combination therapy beyond subspecialty consultation or clinical trials.

Treatment Follow-Up

There is no clear evidence to guide follow-up recommendations once the diagnosis of osteoporosis is made and treatment is initiated. It is reasonable to assess response to therapy at least once, after no less than 24 months. More frequent testing might be appropriate in the setting of accelerated bone loss, such as the chronic administration of glucocorticoids. Successful treatment is best determined by lack of fracture, but the surrogate outcome of stability or increase in BMD suggests treatment effectiveness. A decrease in BMD suggests noncompliance, inadequate calcium and vitamin D supplementation, an unidentified secondary cause of osteoporosis, or treatment failure.

The Authors

MARY GAYLE SWEET, MD, is on the faculty at the Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Residency Program and is an assistant professor of family medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, both in Roanoke, Va. She received her medical degree from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and completed a family medicine residency at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.

JON M. SWEET, MD, is program director of the Carilion Clinic Internal Medicine Residency Program in Roanoke, Va., and is an associate professor of medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Virginia, and completed an internal medicine residency at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio.

MICHAEL P. JEREMIAH, MD, is medical director of the Carilion Clinic Family Medicine Residency Program office practices and is an associate professor of family medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, and completed a family medicine residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., and a faculty development and obstetrics fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

SIM S. GALAZKA, MD, is the Walter M. Seward Professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Michigan School of Medicine in Ann Arbor, and completed a family medicine residency at Grand Rapids (Mich.) Medical Education and Research Center.

Author disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Address correspondence to Mary Gayle Sweet, MD, Carilion Clinic, 1314 Peters Creek Rd., Roanoke, VA 24017 (e-mail: msweet@carilion.com). Reprints are not available from the authors.

REFERENCES

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone health and osteoporosis: a report of the surgeon general (2004). http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/bonehealth/content.html. Accessed December 7, 2008.

2. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Physician’s guide to prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. http://www.nof.org/professionals/Clinicians_Guide.htm [registration required]. Accessed December 7, 2008.

3. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for osteoporosis in post-menopausal women: recommendations and rationale. Rockville, Md.: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; September 2002. http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/osteoporosis/osteorr.htm. Accessed December 7, 2008.

4. Amin S, Felson DT. Osteoporosis in men. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 2001;27(1):19–47.

5. Feldstein A, Elmer PJ, Orwoll E, Herson M, Hillier T. Bone mineral density measurement and treatment for osteoporosis in older individuals with fractures: a gap in evidence-based practice guideline implementation. Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(18):2165–2172.

6. Prevention and management of osteoporosis: report of a WHO Scientific Group. Geneva, Switzerland; 2003. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/WHO_TRS_921.pdf. Accessed December 7, 2008.

7. Mauck KF, Clarke BL. Diagnosis, screening, prevention, and treatment of osteoporosis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006;81(5):662–672.

8. Lydick E, Cook K, Turpin J, Melton M, Stine R, Byrnes C. Development and validation of a simple questionnaire to facilitate identification of women likely to have low bone density. Am J Manag Care. 1998;4(1):37–48.

9. Nelson HD, Helfand M, Woolf SH, Allan JD. Screening for postmenopausal osteoporosis: a review of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(6):529–541. http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/osteoporosis/osteosumm1.htm. Accessed December 7, 2008.

10. Nayak S, Olkin I, Liu H, et al. Meta-analysis: accuracy of quantitative ultrasound for identifying patients with osteoporosis. Ann Intern Med. 2006;144(11):832–841.

11. Osteoporosis in postmenopausal women: diagnosis and monitoring. Evidence report/technology assessment No. 28. Rockville, Md.: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; February 2001. http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/epcsums/osteosum.htm. Accessed December 7, 2008.

12. NIH Consensus Development Panel on Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Therapy. Osteoporosis prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. JAMA. 2001;285(6):785–795.

13. International Society for Clinical Densitometry. Updated 2005 official positions of the International Society for Clinical Densitometry. http://www.iscd.org/Visitors/pdfs/ISCD_OP2005withendorsementtext.pdf. Accessed December 7, 2008.

14. Qaseem A, Snow V, Shekelle P, Hopkins R Jr, Forciea MA, Owens KD, for the Clinical Efficacy Assessment Subcommittee of the American College of Physicians. Screening for osteoporosis in men: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians [published correction appears in Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(11):888]. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(9):680–684.

15. Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Willett WC, Wong JB, Giovannucci E, Dietrich T, Dawson-Hughes B. Fracture prevention with vitamin D supplementation: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. JAMA. 2005;293(18):2257–2264.

16. Black DM, Cummings SR, Karpf DB, et al. Randomised trial of effect of alendronate on risk of fracture in women with existing vertebral fractures. Fracture Intervention Trial Research Group. Lancet. 1996;348(9041):1535–1541.

17. McClung MR, Geusens P, Miller PD, et al., for the Hip Intervention Program Study Group. Effect of risedronate on the risk of hip fracture in elderly women. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(5):333–340.

18. Black DM, Delmas PD, Eastell R, et al., for the HORIZON Pivotal Fracture Trial. Once-yearly zoledronic acid for treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(18):1809–1822.

19. Cauley JA, Robbins J, Chen Z, et al., for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. Effects of estrogen plus progestin on risk of fracture and bone mineral density: the Women’s Health Initiative randomized trial. JAMA. 2003;290(13):1729–1738.

20. Chesnut CH III, Skag A, Christiansen C, et al., for the Oral Ibandronate Osteoporosis Vertebral Fracture Trial in North America and Europe (BONE). Effects of oral ibandronate administered daily or intermittently on fracture risk in postmenopausal osteoporosis. J Bone Miner Res. 2004;19(8):1241–1249.

21. Heaney RP, Zizic TM, Fogelman I, et al. Risedronate reduces the risk of first vertebral fracture in osteoporotic women. Osteoporos Int. 2002;13(6):501–505.

22. Ettinger B, Black DM, Mitlak BH, et al. Reduction of vertebral fracture risk in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis treated with raloxifene: results from a 3-year randomized clinical trial. Mutiple Outcomes of Raloxifene Evaluation (MORE) Investigators. JAMA. 1999;282(7):637–645.

23. Chesnut CH III, Silverman S, Andriano K, et al. A randomized trial of nasal spray salmon calcitonin in postmenopausal women with established osteoporosis: the prevent recurrence of osteoporotic fractures study. PROOF Study Group. Am J Med. 2000;109(4):267–276.

24. Neer RM, Arnaud CD, Zanchetta JR, et al. Effect of parathyroid hormone (1–34) on fractures and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. N Engl J Med. 2001;344(19):1434–1441.

25. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Drugs @ FDA. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/drugsatfda/. Accessed December 7, 2008.

26. Tinetti ME. Clinical practice. Preventing falls in elderly persons. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(1):42–49.

27. Gillespie LD, Gillespie WJ, Robertson MC, Lamb SE, Cumming RG, Rowe BH, Interventions for preventing falls in elderly people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(4):CD000340.

28. Parker MJ, Gillespie WJ, Gillespie LD. Effectiveness of hip protectors for preventing hip fractures in elderly people: systematic review. BMJ. 2006;332(7541):571–574.

29. Kiel DP, Magaziner J, Zimmerman S, et al. Efficacy of a hip protector to prevent hip fracture in nursing home residents: the HIP PRO randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2007;298(4):413–422.

30. Prince RL, Devine A, Dhaliwal SS, Dick IM. Effects of calcium supplementation on clinical fracture and bone structure: results of a 5-year, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in elderly women. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(8):869–875.

31. Cranney A, Horsley T, O’Donnell S, et al. Effectivness and safety of vitamin D in relation to bone health. Evidence report/technology assessment No. 158. Rockville, Md.: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; August 2007. http://www.ahrq.gov/downloads/pub/evidence/pdf/vitamind/vitad.pdf. Accessed December 7, 2008.

32. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266–281.

33. Marcus R, Wong M, Heath H III, Stock JL. Antiresorptive treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis: comparison of study designs and outcomes in large clinical trials with fracture as an endpoint. Endocr Rev. 2002;23(1):16–37.

34. MacLean C, Newberry S, Maglione M, et al. Systematic review: comparative effectiveness of treatments to prevent fractures in men and women with low bone density or osteoporosis. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(3):197–213.

35. Ringe JD, Faber H, Farahmand P, Dorst A. Efficacy of risedronate in men with primary and secondary osteoporosis: results of a 1-year study. Rheumatol Int. 2006;26(5):427–431.

36. Orwoll E, Ettinger M, Weiss S, et al. Alendronate for the treatment of osteoporosis in men. N Engl J Med. 2000;343(9):604–610.

37. Adachi JD, Saag KG, Delmas PD, et al. Two-year effects of alendronate on bone mineral density and vertebral fracture in patients receiving glucocorticoids: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled extension trial. Arthritis Rheum. 2001;44(1):202–211.

38. Wallach S, Cohen S, Reid DM, et al. Effects of risedronate treatment on bone density and vertebral fracture in patients on corticosteroid therapy. Calcif Tissue Int. 2000;67(4):277–285.

39. Siris ES, Harris ST, Rosen CJ, et al. Adherence to bisphosphonate therapy and fracture rates in osteoporotic women: relationship to vertebral and nonvertebral fractures from 2 US claims databases. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006;81(8):1013–1022.

40. Black DM, Schwartz AV, Ensrud KE, et al., for the FLEX Research Group. Effects of continuing or stopping alendronate after 5 years of treatment: the Fracture Intervention Trial Long-term Extension (FLEX): a randomized trial. JAMA. 2006;296(24):2927–2938.

41. Delmas PD, Adami S, Strugala C, et al. Intravenous ibandronate injections in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: one-year results from the dosing intravenous administration study. Arthritis Rheum. 2006;54(6):1838–1846.

42. Woo SB, Hellstein JW, Kalmar JR. Narrative review: bisphosphonates and osteonecrosis of the jaws [published correction appears in Ann Intern Med. 2006;145(3):235]. Ann Intern Med. 2006;144(10):753–761.

43. Silverman SL, Azria M. The analgesic role of calcitonin following osteoporotic fracture. Osteoporos Int. 2002;13(11):858–867.

44. Black DM, Bilezikian JP, Ensrud KE, et al., for the PaTH Study Investigators. One year of alendronate after one year of parathyroid hormone (1–84) for osteoporosis. N Engl J Med. 2005;353(6):555–565.

45. Lindsay R, Gallagher JC, Kleerekoper M, Pickar JH. Effect of lower doses of conjugated equine estrogens with and without medroxyprogesterone acetate on bone in early postmenopausal women. JAMA. 2002;287(20):2668–2676.

46. Greenspan SL, Resnick NM, Parker RA. Combination therapy with hormone replacement and alendronate for prevention of bone loss in elderly women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2003;289(19):2525–2533.


Copyright © 2009 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Article Tools

  • Download PDF
  • Print page
  • Share this page
  • AFP CME Quiz

Information From Industry

More in Pubmed

Navigate this Article