Osteoporosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: trends in the German National Database 2007-2017

Rheumatol Int. 2020 Dec;40(12):2005-2012. doi: 10.1007/s00296-020-04593-6. Epub 2020 May 6.


Osteoporosis is a frequent comorbidity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Due to the improved treatment options for RA, we expect a long-term decrease in osteoporosis as an accompanying disease. Data from the German National Database (NDB) were used to investigate whether the frequency of osteoporosis has changed in the last 10 years. From 2007 to 2017, approximately 4000 patients were documented annually with data on therapy and comorbidity. The cross-sectional data were summarised descriptively. Age, sex, disease duration, disease activity and glucocorticoids were considered as influencing factors. The Cochrane-Armitage test for trend was used to test whether the frequency of osteoporosis at the first visit changed from 2007 to 2017. Osteoporosis frequency in RA patients (mean age 63 years, 75% female) decreased from 20% in 2007 to 6% in 2017 (p < 0.001). The decrease affected women (22% to 17%) and men (14% to 8%) in all age groups and both short-term (≤ 2-year disease duration: 9% to 3%) and long-term RA patients (> 10-year disease duration: 28% to 20%). Patients with high disease activity and patients who took glucocorticoids (GC) were more often affected by osteoporosis than patients in remission or without GC. Drug prophylaxis in patients without osteoporosis increased (20% to 41% without GC, 48% to 55% with GC). Men with GC received less prophylactic treatment than women (48% vs. 57% in 2017). In this cohort, osteoporosis in patients with RA is less frequently observed compared to former years. RA-specific risk factors for osteoporosis such as disease activity and GC therapy have declined but long-term GC use is still present. Assessment of osteoporosis in RA patients should be investigated more consistently by bone density measurement. Male RA patients still need to be given greater consideration regarding osteoporosis drug prophylaxis, especially when GC therapy is needed.

Keywords: Comorbidity; Disease activity; Glucocorticoids; Health care provision; Remission.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence


  • Glucocorticoids