Low frequency of treatment of osteoporosis among postmenopausal women following a fracture

Arch Intern Med. 2003 Sep 22;163(17):2052-7. doi: 10.1001/archinte.163.17.2052.


Background: Osteoporosis is a major cause of morbidity. Treatment of osteoporosis reduces the risk of fracture, particularly for postmenopausal women with a history of fracture.

Methods: A retrospective study was conducted using the automated databases of 7 health maintenance organizations to evaluate the use of drugs recommended for secondary prevention of osteoporotic fracture. Women 60 years and older with an inpatient or outpatient diagnostic code for a fracture of the hip, vertebra, or wrist between October 1, 1994, and September 30, 1996, and at least 1 year of continuous enrollment with a drug benefit plan following the date of fracture, were identified. The frequency of use of medications for the treatment of osteoporosis (estrogen replacement therapy, bisphosphonates, and calcitonin) during the 1-year period following the date of the initial fracture was estimated overall and according to patient age, fracture site, and year of fracture.

Results: During the study period, 3492 women 60 years and older were diagnosed with a fracture of the hip, vertebra, or wrist, and met the inclusion criteria. Of these patients, 822 (24%) received a drug for osteoporosis treatment during the year following the fracture. The proportion of women receiving treatment for osteoporosis was approximately 2-fold higher among those with a fracture of the vertebra (44%) than among those with a fracture of the hip (21%) or wrist (23%) (P<.001). Of the 2605 women who had not been treated for osteoporosis in the 90 days before a fracture, 14% received treatment for osteoporosis in the year following a fracture. Increasing age was associated with a reduced likelihood of receiving osteoporosis treatment (P<.001).

Conclusions: Most of the older women who had experienced a fracture of the hip, vertebra, or wrist did not receive drug treatment for osteoporosis within 1 year following the fracture. Interventions to improve the detection and treatment of osteoporosis in high-risk patients need to be developed.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Calcitonin / therapeutic use*
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Utilization Review
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / drug therapy*
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control*
  • Hip Fractures / etiology
  • Hip Fractures / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / complications
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis, Postmenopausal / prevention & control
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fractures / etiology
  • Spinal Fractures / prevention & control
  • Wrist Injuries / drug therapy
  • Wrist Injuries / etiology


  • Diphosphonates
  • Calcitonin