Osteoporosis is a condition that often occurs with age as you naturally start to lose bone mineral density and bone mass, which impacts the structure and strength of your bones. As a result, this condition increases the risk of broken or fractured bones. For some people, the first sign of osteoporosis is a bone fracture. Unfortunately, once you have one fracture, your chances of having another one (secondary fracture) increases.

Osteoporosis treatments can help protect and preserve your bone health. Some treatments aim to prevent further bone loss while others can even help build bone back.

In a recent study presented at The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) Convergence in San Diego, CA, researchers, including some from the Global Healthy Living Foundation (GHLF), look into what matters most to patients when it comes to osteoporosis treatment. They are using this information to build a treatment-decision making tool that will make it easier for patients to explain these preferences to their doctors. With this information at hand during a future appointment, patients and health care providers can work together to make shared decisions about which osteoporosis treatment is best for the individual patient.

The study, titled “Osteoporosis Treatment Attributes and Levels for an Online Decision-Making Tool for Patients: Findings from Adaptive Choice-Based Conjoint Analysis” was conducted in two parts.

For part one, researchers conducted a survey of more than 300 osteoporosis patients to gauge how they ranked the importance of six specific osteoporosis treatment attributes:

  1. Efficacy to prevent spine fractures
  2. Efficacy to prevent hip fractures
  3. Way the osteoporosis medicine is given (e.g. orally, via injection, etcetera)
  4. Risk of serious side effects
  5. Time in between doses of medication
  6. Risk of non-serious side effects

Researchers found that out of all six osteoporosis treatment attributes, the three most important attributes for surveyed patients were efficacy to prevent hip fractures (31%) followed by the way medicine is administered (17.5%) and the risk of serious side effects (16.6%).

According to Kelly Gavigan, Director of Data Management and Analytics at GHLF, and study researcher, the fact that the score is nearly double that of the other characteristics shows that people specifically want medication to protect from a hip fracture. Gavigan mentioned that patients’ strong preference for preventing hip fractures is revealing and could be for a variety of reasons — from hip fractures being one of most discussed fractures when learning about osteoporosis to patients viewing hip fractures as especially debilitating.

Responses to this survey informed part two of the study, in which patients participated in a refined version of the survey through an online osteoporosis treatment-decision making tool. The tool expanded the descriptions of the six treatment attributes. After the participants answered the tool’s questions, it generated a tailored report for each patient based on their responses about treatment attribute preferences.

When it comes to making treatment decisions, Gavigan emphasized the importance of patients being able to grasp their preferences based on what the medications can actually do. “We wanted to make sure the [medication] attribute [preferences] were not hypothetical,” she says. By doing so, the tool produces information for the patient that they can realistically use in conversation with their doctor about their preferences on real functions, effects, and methods of use of various osteoporosis medications.

The study’s findings are helping to improve the online tool, which will soon be widely available to osteoporosis patients.

What This Means for You

Understanding your osteoporosis treatment preferences is crucial and can help you take a more active role in your bone health. When you know what you value most in a treatment (and what is less important), you can have more meaningful conversations with your doctor. It’s not just about following advice; it’s about making choices together that fit your life. That’s the aim of shared decision making, and it can lead to a personalized treatment plan that not only protects your bones but also your peace of mind.

Stay tuned for more updates on the launch of GHLF’s treatment decision-making tool and visit GHLF’s StrongBonesAndMe.org site to learn more about osteoporosis, fracture prevention, and after-fracture care options.

Be a More Proactive Patient with PatientSpot

PatientSpot (formerly ArthritisPower) is a patient-led, patient-centered research registry for people living with chronic conditions. By joining, you can participate in voluntary research studies about your health conditions and use the app to track your symptoms, disease activity, and medications — and you can share this information with your doctor. Learn more and sign up here.

Curtis J, et al. Osteoporosis Treatment Attributes and Levels for an Online Decision-Making Tool for Patients: Findings from Adaptive Choice-Based Conjoint Analysis. Arthritis & Rheumatology Journal. 2023. https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/osteoporosis-treatment-attributes-and-levels-for-an-online-decision-making-tool-for-patients-findings-from-adaptive-choice-based-conjoint-analysis/.

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