Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease; symptoms are rarely present until a bone breaks. Likewise, patients undergoing treatment usually don’t notice any change in their health or feel “better.” It’s often only bone marrow density (BMD) test results that indicate improvement, and those tests typically occur after months or years of treatment.
So it’s not surprising osteoporosis patients, like those with other asymptomatic diseases such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, find it difficult to keep going with the lengthy and often inconvenient medication schemes required to treat their disorder.
According to a report by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada the number of patients that stick to their osteoporosis medications “is relatively poor” with up to 30% suspending their treatments within one year after their start.
The main reasons osteoporosis patients stop their treatment include:
•Negative side effects
•Fear of side effects or possible risks
•Lack of understanding of BMD tests or their relevance
•Complicated/inconvenient requirements to take the medications
The authors suggest that less frequent doses, new and faster tests to monitor progress, more feedback from physicians and health care providers, and increased patient education are necessary to increase the number of patients that will stay on their osteoporosis medications.
Papaioannou, A. et al, 2007. “Patient Adherence to Osteoporosis Medications: Problems, Consequences and Management Strategies,” Drugs Aging.
Rizzoli, R., 2006. “What factors determine patient adherence to osteoporosis treatment regimens?” Nat Clin Pract Endocrin Met.
Interesting statistics on noncompliance in treatments for various diseases:
Gold, D. et al, 2005. “Compliance With Osteoporosis Medications: Challenges for Healthcare Providers,” Medscape OB/Byn Women’s Health website.