, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 805-810
Date: 06 Jan 2007

Fracture risk and antiresorptive medication use in older women in the USA

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Risk of fragility fractures in older women appears to be under-recognized and under treated. Analysis of a national sample of older US women reveals that over 5 million are at high risk of fracture; only one third of these report being told they have osteoporosis and one quarter are receiving appropriate treatment.


Substantial numbers of older women in the United States suffer fragility fractures each year. Although risk for these fractures can be readily identified from clinical characteristics, many women may not be receiving treatments demonstrated to reduce risk. Our objective was to estimate the extent of fracture risk among older white US women and assess patterns of use of pharmacologic agents in response to that risk.


Cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for 1999–2000 and 2001–2002 were combined to enumerate risk factors for fracture and use of antiresorptive prescription medications for all white women 65 years of age and older. The FRACTURE Index (FI), developed from the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF), which combines subjects’ characteristics to estimate five-year fracture risk, was applied to these national data.


Of more than 15 million US women in this age group almost 40% have one risk factor in addition to age that predisposes to fracture; 20% have two or more. More than 5 million women are in the highest category of FI risk; 26% of these will have a nonvertebral fracture and 10% will have a vertebral fracture in the next five years. Antiresorptive medications are being taken by less than 50% of women in most risk categories when all antiresorptives, including estrogen replacement, are included; only 17% of older women who have sustained a prior fracture and 13% in the highest category of FI risk are receiving agents specifically intended to reduce bone loss.


Millions of older US women are at high risk for fragility fractures. Levels of treatment with antiresorptive medications are low and are not commensurate with fracture risk.