Conference Coverage

Don’t let knowledge gaps hold back fracture prevention efforts, experts say



– Clinicians shouldn't let the lack of research on osteoporosis treatment compliance and barriers to care keep them from acting on what's already known about drug therapies' effectiveness in preventing fractures.

That's the advice from leaders at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, who discussed recent recommendations issued from a National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Workshop on the “Appropriate Use of Drug Therapies for Osteoporotic Fracture Prevention.”

Dr. Benjamin Leder, an endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

Dr. Benjamin Leder

Speakers at a special session of the annual meeting were in agreement on the need for more research into current barriers of osteoporosis care and new methods for increasing patient and physician compliance with recommendations.

But the focus should also be on what researchers in bone health have already learned about treating osteoporosis, “which is quite a bit,” said Benjamin Z. Leder, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, both in Boston, who gave the ASBMR’s perspective at the session. Dr. Leder was also first author on a perspective paper that outlined the society’s concerns about the recommendations coming from the workshop (J Bone Miner Res. 2019;34[9]:1549-51).

Gaps in knowledge and treatment

“We thought that [not focusing on what is already known about osteoporosis treatment] perhaps would have the potential to exacerbate the treatment gap that exists in osteoporosis therapy,” Dr. Leder said in his presentation. “We also felt that any knowledge deficits must be understood in the context of what has been unequivocally demonstrated in terms of our knowledge of osteoporosis therapies.”

That includes knowing how to identify patients at the highest risk of fracture, which medications reduce the risk of osteoporotic and osteopenic fractures, and that using these medications saves lives, Dr. Leder noted.

With limited resources in osteoporosis and the absence of any large, randomized, controlled trials or new therapies because of lack of interest from industry, stakeholders should be examining what can be done outside of trials. In osteoporosis, as is the case with any other therapeutic area or disease state, the results of randomized, placebo-controlled trials will not address every patient subgroup of interest, he said.

“Some extrapolation is always required,” Dr. Leder said. “We have to – as we treat, as we practice medicine – use the evidence we have and then try to use that to guide us when the randomized, controlled trial doesn’t answer that specific question.”

Dr. Leder also emphasized that fear of side effects such as osteonecrosis of the jaw and atypical femoral fracture are not the only barriers in osteoporosis care. Adherence is generally poor with osteoporosis treatment, and physicians usually have competing priorities when seeing their patients. “Even in the absence of the idea that these side effects are potentially paralyzing patients and physicians, we have to remember that we started from a fairly low baseline,” Dr. Leder said.

Other issues that complicate the issue of osteoporosis care are misinformation available online that may cause patients to not use medications, overestimations of the benefits of not using osteoporosis medication in favor of nondrug interventions, and conflicting, faulty, or unhelpful guidelines from medical societies, he said.

“There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed. The [Pathways to Prevention] has really done us a great service, and the ASBMR hopes to continue supporting their efforts moving forward,” he said.


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