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Osteoporotic fracture risk is undermanaged in older adults



Treatment of osteoporosis in older adults at increased risk for fractures declined from 2010 to 2014, based on a study of nearly 900,000 individuals.

Jeffrey R. Curtis, MD, University of Alabama at Birmingham Courtesy University of Alabama at Birmingham

Dr. Jeffrey R. Curtis

Osteoporotic fractures are associated with morbidity and mortality, functional decline, increased nursing home admissions, and a significant economic burden, Jeffrey R. Curtis, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

“The number of Americans at risk for fractures on the basis of having osteoporosis is expected to increase by 32% based on the graying of the population,” he said. “Underdiagnosis and undertreatment may be contributing to the increased burden that we are starting to see,” he added.

To assess the impact of osteoporosis management on patients at increased risk for fractures, Dr. Curtis and his colleagues examined temporal trends over 5 years from 885,676 Medicare fee-for-service members with a closed fragility (or osteoporosis-related) fracture between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2014. The average age of the patients was 81 years; 91% were white, and 94% were women.

The researchers used diagnosis and procedure codes to create an algorithm with a positive predictive value of more than 90%. Individuals with Paget’s disease or a malignancy other than nonmelanoma skin cancer at baseline were excluded.

Overall, use of dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) screening in this high-risk population decreased over the study period, with rates during 2010-2014 of 25%, 24%, 23%, 22%, and 16%, respectively. The presence of an osteoporosis diagnosis in the study population decreased over the same period, with rates of 7%, 6%, 6%, 5%, and 4%, respectively. In addition, the percentage of high-risk patients undergoing osteoporosis treatment at the time of fracture during 2010-2014 was 29%, 24%, 20%, 16%, and 11%, respectively.

Despite their history of fracture, more than half of individuals in each year’s database had a comorbidity or were taking a medication that increased fall risk. The most common comorbidity was impaired mobility (about 20% of each yearly cohort), followed by history of falls, history of stroke, impaired vision, muscle atrophy or weakness, and Parkinson’s disease. Approximately half of the patients in each year’s group were taking opioids, and approximately 20% were taking oral corticosteroids.

The findings were limited by several factors, including those common to studies involving administrative claims databases, such as a lack of complete medical and treatment history, lack of diagnostic validation for osteoporosis-related fractures, and lack of information on why use of DXA decreased over time, Dr. Curtis said. However, the results show the need to improve management of individuals at increased risk for falls and fractures to reduce not only the risk of morbidity and mortality, but also the economic impact.

Dr. Curtis disclosed serving as a consultant for Radius Health and Amgen, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center received grants from these companies.

SOURCE: Curtis et al. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2019;71(suppl 10), Abstract 1872.

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