Conference Coverage

VIDEO: ACR recommendations for glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis unveiled



– New American College of Rheumatology recommendations for glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis prevention and treatment include refinements in risk assessment and treatment.

“These are draft recommendations not yet accepted by ACR,” said Lenore M. Buckley, MD, of Yale University, New Haven, Conn. “They are intended to be dynamic, because risk factors change for patients over time,” she added.

The draft recommendations build upon the 2010 ACR recommendations.

“About 1% of the United States population is on glucocorticoid treatment. Fracture is the most common adverse event, and trabecular bone in the spine is the most vulnerable,” Dr. Buckley explained in her presentation of the recommendations at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology. “The risk of glucocorticoid (GC)-induced fracture is related to dose level and cumulative dose.”

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The draft recommendations were developed via GRADE (Grading of Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) methodology by a core team of internists, rheumatologists, a GRADE expert, a voting panel, and an expert panel.

Recommendations for risk assessment

Risk assessment for GC-induced osteoporosis is individualized. “You need to know the patient in front of you. Fracture risk is not just related to GC use, but also to bone mass, age, and race. Older age, female gender, Caucasian race all increase risk, and these factors need to be brought in to assessment,” Dr. Buckley explained.

For men and women over age 40, the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX), which calculates the 10-year fracture risk in adults over age 40, should be used for risk assessment, incorporating GC use as a risk factor, she said.

“Adjust risk of FRAX according to dose of glucocorticoid. For 2.5-7.5 mg/day, the FRAX risk is fine, but if the patient is on higher doses, adjust the FRAX accordingly,” she said.

FRAX is not valid for women and men under age 40, she continued. A new recommendation is the inclusion of a moderate risk group based on very low bone mass score (Z score less than –3 below the standard deviation of the mean) and/or rapid bone loss (greater than 10% in 1 year). Patients who had prior GC-associated fracture under 40 years are considered high risk.

A thorough history and physical exam are necessary for all patients, and risk assessment should be done within 6 months of GC initiation. Physical exam should be repeated annually, and bone mineral density (BMD) should be assessed every 2-3 years for patients who continue on GC.


The proposed treatment recommendations were not age dependent. Patients with moderate to high risk should be treated, in descending order, with oral bisphosphonates, intravenous bisphosphonates, teriparatide (Forteo), and denosumab (Prolia). The order of preference for these treatments was based on cost, efficacy, toxicity, and patient preference.

The proposed recommendations also addressed four special groups considered at significant risk: women of childbearing potential, organ transplant recipients, children, and people on very high doses of GC (greater than 30 mg/day, cumulative dose of 5 g/year).

“For women of childbearing potential, there are emerging data suggesting that bisphosphonates are safe. For this group, consider oral bisphosphonate and teriparatide as a second choice. Animal data suggest that IV bisphosphonates and denosumab are harmful to the fetus,” Dr. Buckley said.

For organ transplant recipients, general recommendations can be followed with two provisions: Kidney transplant recipients should have a work-up for metabolic bone disease, and denosumab should not be used in people on multiple immunosuppressants.

Optimize calcium and vitamin D for children, and treat with oral bisphosphonate, Dr. Buckley continued. If oral bisphosphonates are contraindicated, IV bisphosphonates can be used.

Patients on very high GC dose should be treated with oral bisphosphonates if they are age 30 or older.

Osteoporosis medications can be discontinued in low-risk patients who stop taking GC, but should be continued for those at moderate to high risk.

Patients who benefit from osteoporosis medications but remain at moderate to high risk at the end of 3 years should continue GC treatment.

The authors and sponsors had no relevant financial disclosures.

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