SAN DIEGO – The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and opioids was associated with an increased osteoporotic fracture risk in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, results from an analysis of national data showed.
“Osteoporotic fractures are one of the important causes of disability, health-related costs, and mortality in RA, with substantially higher complication and mortality rates than the general population,” study author Gulsen Ozen, MD, said in an interview prior to the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology. “Given the burden of osteoporotic fractures and the suboptimal osteoporosis care, identifying the factors associated with fracture risk in RA patients is of paramount importance.”
During a median follow-up of nearly 6 years, 863 patients (7.8%) sustained osteoporotic fractures. Compared with patients who did not develop fractures, those who did were significantly older, had higher disease duration and activity, glucocorticoid use, comorbidity and FRAX, a fracture risk assessment tool, scores at baseline. After adjusting for sociodemographics, comorbidities, body mass index, fracture risk by FRAX, and RA severity measures, the researchers found a significant risk of osteoporotic fractures with use of opioids of any strength (weak agents, hazard ratio, 1.45; strong agents, HR, 1.79; P less than .001 for both), SSRI use (HR, 1.35; P = .003), and glucocorticoid use of 3 months or longer at a dose of at least 7.5 mg per day (HR, 1.74; P less than .05). Osteoporotic fracture risk increase started even after 1-30 days of opioid use (HR, 1.96; P less than .001), whereas SSRI-associated risk increase started after 3 months of use (HR, 1.42; P = .054). No significant association with fracture risk was observed with the use of other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, statins, antidepressants, proton pump inhibitors, NSAIDs, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics.
“One of the first surprising findings was that almost 40% of the RA patients older than 40 years of age were at least once exposed to opioid analgesics,” said Dr. Ozen, who is a research fellow in the division of immunology and rheumatology at the medical center. “Another surprising finding was that even very short-term (1-30 days) use of opioids was associated with increased fracture risk.” She went on to note that careful and regular reviewing of patient medications “is an essential part of the RA patient care, as the use of medications not indicated anymore brings harm rather than a benefit. The most well-known example for this is glucocorticoid use. This is valid for all medications, too. Therefore, we hope that our findings provide more awareness about osteoporotic fractures and associated risk factors in RA patients.”
She acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including its observational design. “Additionally, fracture and the level of the trauma in our cohort were reported by patients,” she said. “Therefore, there might be some misclassification of fractures as osteoporotic fractures. Lastly, we did not have detailed data regarding fall risk, which might explain the associations we observed with opioids and potentially, SSRIs.”
Dr. Ozen reported having no disclosures.