Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Factors associated with initiation of bone-health medication among older adults in primary care in Ireland

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-08-18, 15:47 authored by Mary E Walsh, Mari Nerdrum, Tom FaheyTom Fahey, Frank MoriartyFrank Moriarty

Background: Adults at high risk of fragility fracture should be offered pharmacological treatment when not contraindicated, however, under-treatment is common.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate factors associated with bone-health medication initiation in older patients attending primary care.

Design: This was a retrospective cohort study.

Setting: The study used data from forty-four general practices in Ireland from 2011-2017.

Subjects: The study included adults aged ≥ 65 years who were naïve to bone-health medication for 12 months.

Methods: Overall fracture-risk (based on QFracture) and individual fracture-risk factors were described for patients initiated and not initiated onto medication and compared using generalised linear model regression with the Poisson distribution.

Results: Of 36,799 patients (51% female, mean age 75.4 (SD = 8.4)) included, 8% (n = 2,992) were observed to initiate bone-health medication during the study. One-fifth of all patients (n = 8,193) had osteoporosis or had high fracture-risk but only 21% of them (n = 1,687) initiated on medication. Female sex, older age, state-funded health cover and osteoporosis were associated with initiation. Independently of osteoporosis and co-variates, high 5-year QFracture risk for hip (IRR = 1.33 (95% CI = 1.17-1.50), P < 0.01) and all fractures (IRR = 1.30 (95% CI = 1.17-1.44), P < 0.01) were associated with medication initiation. Previous fracture, rheumatoid arthritis and corticosteroid use were associated with initiation, while liver, kidney, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and oestrogen-only hormone replacement therapy showed an inverse association.

Conclusions: Bone-health medication initiation is targeted at patients at higher fracture-risk but much potential under-treatment remains, particularly in those >80 years and with co-morbidities. This may reflect clinical uncertainty in older multimorbid patients, and further research should explore decision-making in preventive bone medication prescribing.


Health Research Board (HRB) in Ireland through grant no. HRC/2014/1

RCSI Research Summer School 2019



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Walsh ME, Nerdrum M, Fahey T, Moriarty F. Factors associated with initiation of bone-health medication among older adults in primary care in Ireland. Age Ageing. 2021:afab033.

Publication Date

8 March 2021

PubMed ID



  • HRB Centre for Primary Care Research
  • School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences
  • General Practice
  • Undergraduate Research

Research Area

  • Population Health and Health Services


Oxford University Press


  • Published Version (Version of Record)