Research is limited on physicians' prescribing practices for osteoporosis treatment. We investigated patterns of pharmacotherapy from 1988 to 2003 and the impact of new medications on identification and treatment of patients with osteoporosis.
We tracked trends from 1988 through 2003 in the frequency of osteoporosis visits and patterns of pharmacotherapy associated with these visits using nationally representative data on prescribing patterns by office-based US physicians from the IMS HEALTH National Disease and Therapeutic Index.
The number of physician visits for osteoporosis increased 4-fold between 1994 (1.3 million visits) and 2003 (6.3 million visits), whereas it had remained stable in prior years. This increase coincided with the availability of oral daily bisphosphonates and the selective estrogen receptor modulator raloxifene. The annualized percentage of osteoporosis visits where medications were prescribed increased from 82% in 1988 to 97% by 2003. Prior to 1994, the leading choices for osteoporosis therapy were calcium and estrogens, with lesser roles played by calcitonins and bisphosphonates. Between 1994 and 2003, the percentage of visits where bisphosphonates and raloxifene were prescribed increased from 14% to 73% and from 0% to 12%, respectively, while prescriptions for other medications declined.
New medications for osteoporosis offering improved efficacy and convenient dosing were associated with increased frequency of patient visits and treatment. This finding suggests that new drug therapy contributed to increased disease recognition and treatment.