Conference Coverage

New postmenopausal osteoporosis guidelines emphasize patient priorities



– In new guidelines for the pharmacologic management of osteoporosis, bisphosphonates have been identified as the first-line therapy with denosumab (Prolia) listed as an acceptable alternative that is particularly well suited for high-risk patients, according to a presentation at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society.

Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Scarborough

Dr. Clifford J. Rosen

“We hope our guideline will not only improve patient care but provide confidence in treatment,” reported guideline writing committee member Clifford J. Rosen, MD, director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, Scarborough.

The new guidelines are evidence based, relying on randomized, controlled trials to evaluate the data quality of treatment options with GRADE methodology, but Dr. Rosen said that the guideline writing committee also considered patient preferences because of concerns about the abundant evidence that adherence to pharmacologic therapies for osteoporosis is poor.

“There is a considerable gap in the treatment of osteoporosis. Most women will not take anti-osteoporosis therapies despite their efficacy, and those who do often stop,” Dr. Rosen observed. He said it was the intention of the writing committee to provide acceptable recommendations with a clear outline of benefits and risks in order to enlist patients more successfully in understanding and participating in fracture prevention.

The Endocrine Society guidelines, which are available online and will soon appear in print (J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019;104:1-28), are focused on pharmacologic management and therefore differ from guidelines on diagnosis and treatment published previously by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) (Endocr Pract. 2016;22[Suppl 4]:1-42).

The AACE guidelines, which devote considerable space to prevention, indicated that bisphosphonates should “be generally considered as initial options for most patients who are candidates for treatment.” The AACE guidelines identify denosumab as the “treatment of choice” in patients with renal insufficiency (although not in those on dialysis or with end-stage renal disease).

In outlining some of the key features of the new guidelines at ENDO 2019, Dr. Rosen drew attention to a call for reevaluation of the need for bisphosphonates after patients have been on this therapy for 3 or more years. For those found at this time to be at low or moderate risk of fracture, a drug holiday is recommended based on guideline-cited evidence that bisphosphonates offer a residual therapeutic effect after stopping.

However, stopping is not recommended in those who remain at high risk. In these patients, bone density should be monitored at regular intervals for the goal of switching or intensifying therapy if needed. This includes use of teriparatide (Forteo) or abaloparatide (Tymlos) for periods of up to 2 years in patients with a history of severe or multiple fractures. These and other choices are included in a detailed algorithm covering both low- and high-risk patients.

Although many postmenopausal women hope to avoid pharmacologic therapy with high dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D, Dr. Rosen stressed the limited benefit of these nutrients in preventing fracture for those with established osteoporosis. While acknowledging that calcium and vitamin D enhance mineralization and maintenance of bone mass, he characterized them as “supplements” once pharmacologic therapies are indicated.

Unsurprisingly, patients prefer oral therapies that are effective but with a low burden of adverse events, according to a review of evidence undertaken by the guideline committee. Cost was a less important consideration. Dr. Rosen indicated that recognizing patient goals and priorities while explaining relative risks might engage patients in selecting a therapy to which they are willing to adhere.

He reported having no relevant financial relationships.

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