Purpose. Treatment with glucocorticoids is the leading cause of drug-induced osteoporosis. Currently available guidelines indicate that patients receiving long-term glucocorticoid therapy should receive measures to prevent osteoporosis. The purposes of this study were to examine whether patients receiving long-term glucocorticoid therapy in a managed care setting received preventive therapy or prescribed medications for osteoporosis and to identify patient and provider characteristics associated with treatment.
Study Population and Methods. A cohort of 224 health plan enrollees 20 years and older who were dispensed at least 1 oral glucocorticoid prescription per quarter during the period October 1997 through September 1998 was identified from administrative data. Medical charts and administrative data were reviewed to determine use of preventive therapy and prescribed medications for osteoporosis.
Results. Of the 224 patients, 62% had at least 1 documented intervention aimed at osteoporosis prevention (counseling about calcium or vitamin D or weight-bearing exercise; prescription for estrogen, calcitonin, or bisphosphonate; or a bone mineral density study). Women were more likely than men to receive intervention (76% vs 44%; prevalence odds ratio: 4.41; 95% confidence interval: 2.17–9.10). Patients receiving a mean daily prednisone dose of 10 mg or more or 5 to <10 mg were no more likely to receive intervention than those receiving 5 mg or less prednisone daily. Sixty-two (90%) of 69 patients who were prescribed glucocorticoid therapy by rheumatologists had at least 1 intervention documented compared with 29 (48%) of 60 for internists, 26 (55%) of 47 for pulmonologists, and 22 (46%) of 48 for all other physicians. In a multiple logistic regression model, including patient age, sex, mean daily glucocorticoid dose, and physician specialty, women and patients prescribed glucocorticoids by a rheumatologist were significantly more likely to receive intervention aimed at osteoporosis prevention.
Conclusions. A substantial proportion of patients receiving long-term glucocorticoid therapy do not receive preventive therapy for osteoporosis. Efforts should be made to reduce barriers to such treatment and increase the proportion of patients given preventive therapy.
Reviewer’s Comments. This issue remains important. Over half the patients in this study had either asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nonetheless, I’m just not treating very many asthmatic patients with oral corticosteroids these days, so it just doesn’t come up very often. As I understand it, it’s been difficult demonstrating that inhaled corticosteroids cause osteopenia.
- Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Pediatrics