Conference Coverage

Consider cognitive reframing of osteoporosis to improve adherence



– Reframing the decision-making process for selecting osteoporosis treatment options may help increase adherence to medication, according to a speaker at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

“The language of this disease needs to be changed,” Deborah Gold, PhD, of Duke University, Durham, N.C., said in her presentation.

As medications for osteoporosis have changed over the decades – from estrogen in the 1940s and calcitonin in the 1970s to bisphosphonates in the 1990s – the delivery mechanisms of the drugs and the dosing intervals also have changed. However, long-term adherence to osteoporosis medication through various delivery mechanisms and doses have remained elusive, Dr. Gold said.

She cited the negative public and media response to osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) and atypical femoral fractures (AFF) – two rare side effects of bisphosphonate treatment – as one reason why adherence to osteoporosis medications has changed.

While the more common side effects of osteoporosis medications are manageable, the emphasis in lay press has been on “rare and frightening side effects,” she said. A 2018 study found that reports in the media “strongly influence the level of awareness of osteoporosis and fracture risk” and that a gap exists between clinical recommendations and patient perceptions (J Endocrinol Invest. 2018;41[12]:1359-64. doi: 10.1007/s40618-018-0898-9). Over the same time period, another study found that 40.2% of high-risk patients hospitalized for a hip fracture were treated with osteoporosis medications in 2002, but that number declined to 20.5% in 2011 (J Bone Miner Res. 2014;29[9]:1929-37. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2202).

Dr. Gold advised clinicians to counter negative patient perceptions about osteoporosis treatment by explaining the risks of treatment with medications as well as the risks of not undergoing treatment for osteoporosis. “A hip fracture is a lot more likely for nontreatment than ONJ or AFF are for treatment,” she said.

Dr. Gold also described the importance of listening to patients’ preferences for treatment as well as attempting to find an appropriate treatment they are likely to continue using. “This has been shown in the literature over and over again in other diseases,” she said. If “somebody says, ‘I can’t do needles,’ you can’t prescribe a medication that goes in through a needle.”

Assuring patients that they can visit again to address issues with treatment, change medications if needed, and discuss concerns about adverse outcomes such as ONJ and AFF is also relevant. “We need to promote osteoporosis understanding – not just osteoporosis – and we need to promote treatment to multiple sources,” she said.

When osteoporosis is characterized in terms of bone mineral density, T-scores, fragility fractures, appropriate exercises, and diet, there is plenty of opportunity for confusion or misunderstanding. Accurate, plain-language information, given both verbally and in handouts, works well , according to Dr. Gold.

“Health communication services – whether we’re talking about newspapers, magazines, radio shows, television shows, or even things that come out from organizations like the NOF [National Osteoporosis Foundation] and ASBMR – need to promote accurate information and not exaggerated negatives that we hear all the time,” she said.

“Cognitive reframing is not an easy thing; there’s no question,” Dr. Gold said. “I’m not standing up here telling you we can do it tomorrow. It will be difficult. But for those of us who know this disease and know how serious it is and know what the consequences are, we need to make a positive difference.”

Dr. Gold reported being a consultant for Amgen, Eli Lilly, and Radius Pharmaceuticals.

SOURCE: Gold D. ASBMR 2019. Adherence to Osteoporosis: A Conundrum of Significant Proportions.

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