Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Persistence with oral bisphosphonates .....pdf (564.6 kB)

Persistence with oral bisphosphonates and denosumab among older adults in primary care in Ireland

Download (564.6 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2021-08-19, 09:01 authored by Mary E Walsh, Tom FaheyTom Fahey, Frank MoriartyFrank Moriarty

Gaps in pharmacological treatment for osteoporosis can reduce effectiveness. Among older adults, we found about half of new users of oral bisphosphonate and denosumab persisted with their treatment at 2 years, with few switching to alternative therapy. Persistence is suboptimal and warrants evaluation of interventions to improve this.

Purpose: Gaps in pharmacological treatment for osteoporosis can reduce effectiveness. This study aimed to estimate persistence rates for oral bisphosphonates and denosumab in older primary care patients and identify factors associated with discontinuation.

Methods: Older patients newly prescribed oral bisphosphonates or denosumab during 2012-2017 were identified from 44 general practices (GP) in Ireland. Persistence without a coverage gap of >90 days was calculated for both medications from therapy initiation. Factors associated with time to discontinuation were explored using Cox regression analysis. Exposures included age group, osteoporosis diagnosis, fracture history, calcium/vitamin D prescription, number of other medications, health cover, dosing frequency (bisphosphonates) and previous bone-health medication (denosumab).

Results: Of 41,901 patients, n=1569 were newly initiated on oral bisphosphonates and n=1615 on denosumab. Two-year persistence was 49.4% for oral bisphosphonates and 53.8% for denosumab and <10% were switched to other medication. Having state-funded health cover was associated with a lower hazard of discontinuation for both oral bisphosphonates (HR=0.49, 95% CI=0.36-0.66, p<0.01) and denosumab (HR=0.71, 95% CI=0.57-0.89, p<0.01). Older age group, number of medications and calcium/vitamin D prescription were also associated with better bisphosphonate persistence, while having osteoporosis diagnosed was associated with better denosumab persistence.

Conclusion: Persistence for osteoporosis medications is suboptimal. Of concern, few patients are switched to other bone-health treatments when denosumab is stopped which could increase fracture risk. Free access to GP services and medications may have resulted in better medication persistence in this cohort. Future research should explore prescribing choices in primary care osteoporosis management and evaluate cost-effectiveness of interventions for improving persistence.


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

IReL Consortium



The original article is available at Pre-print is available on medRxiv, and RCSI repository

Published Citation

Walsh ME, Fahey T, Moriarty F. Persistence with oral bisphosphonates and denosumab among older adults in primary care in Ireland. Arch Osteoporos. 2021;16(1):71.

Publication Date

17 April 2021

PubMed ID



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

Research Area

  • Population Health and Health Services


Springer Science and Business Media LLC


  • Published Version (Version of Record)