Bisphosphonates

Consider need for treatment in light of risk factors for osteoporotic fractures: previous osteoporotic fragility fracture, parental history of hip fracture, alcohol intake ≥ 4 units/d, rheumatoid arthritis, oral steroids, BMI<22kg/m2), ankylosing spondylitis, Crohn’s disease, prolonged immobility, untreated menopause. See NNT table

  • Check patient’s ability and willingness to take bisphosphonates (and calcium) as instructed
  • If the patient has been taking a bisphosphonate for osteoporosis for at least 3 years, discuss the option of discontinuing. There is no consistent evidence of benefit or harm of continued use after at least 3 years therapy. See NICE Guidance. Continue calcium and vitamin D supplements.
    • There are no current guidelines for bisphosphonate holidays/discontinuation in the UK. See NICE Multimorbidity Guidance
    • There is no evidence to guide monitoring after discontinuation of bisphosphonate therapy
    • Women who stop alendronate after 5 years rather than continuing for 10 years show moderate decline in bone mineral density and a gradual rise in biochemical markers but no high fracture risk except clinically asymptomatic fractures.
    • Women at high fracture risk may benefit from continuing alendronate beyond 5 years but this should be a considered decision rather than automatic continuation