Hypocalcemia Risk of Denosumab Across the Spectrum of Kidney Disease: A Population-Based Cohort Study

J Bone Miner Res. 2023 May;38(5):650-658. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.4804. Epub 2023 Apr 9.


Denosumab can be used in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) but has been linked with cases of severe hypocalcemia. The incidence of and risk factors for hypocalcemia after denosumab use are not well established. Using linked health care databases at ICES, we conducted a population-based cohort study of adults >65 years old with a new prescription for denosumab or a bisphosphonate between 2012 and 2020. We assessed incidence of hypocalcemia within 180 days of drug dispensing and stratified results by estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR in mL/min/1.73 m2 ). We used Cox proportional hazards to assess risk factors for hypocalcemia. There were 59,151 and 56,847 new denosumab and oral bisphosphonate users, respectively. Of the denosumab users, 29% had serum calcium measured in the year before their prescription, and one-third had their serum calcium checked within 180 days after their prescription. Mild hypocalcemia (albumin corrected calcium <2.00 mmol/L) occurred in 0.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.6, 0.7) of new denosumab users and severe hypocalcemia (<1.8 mmol/L) in 0.2% (95% CI 0.2, 0.3). In those with an eGFR <15 or receiving maintenance dialysis, the incidence of mild and severe hypocalcemia was 24.1% (95% CI 18.1, 30.7) and 14.9% (95% CI 10.1, 20.7), respectively. In this group, kidney function and baseline serum calcium were strong predictors of hypocalcemia. We did not have information on over-the-counter vitamin D or calcium supplementation. In new bisphosphonate users, the incidence of mild hypocalcemia was 0.3% (95% CI 0.3, 0.3) with an incidence of 4.7% (95% CI 1.5, 10.8) in those with an eGFR <15 or receiving maintenance dialysis. In this large population-based cohort, we found that the overall risk of hypocalcemia with new denosumab use was low but increased substantially in those with eGFR <15 mL/min/1.73 m2 . Future studies should investigate strategies to mitigate hypocalcemia. © 2023 The Authors. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR).


Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents* / adverse effects
  • Calcium
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denosumab / adverse effects
  • Diphosphonates
  • Humans
  • Hypocalcemia* / chemically induced
  • Hypocalcemia* / epidemiology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / complications
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / drug therapy


  • Denosumab
  • Calcium
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Diphosphonates

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