Pharmacological Management of Osteoporosis in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Review of the Literature and Practical Guide

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disabling disease that is associated with increased localized and generalized osteoporosis (OP). Previous studies estimated that approximately one-third of the RA population experience bone loss. Moreover, RA patients suffer from a doubled fracture incidence depending on several clinical factors, such as disease severity, age, glucocorticoid (GC) use, and immobility. As OP fractures are related to impaired quality of life and increased mortality rates, OP has an enormous impact on global health status. Therefore, there is an urgent need for a holistic approach in daily clinical practice. In other words, both OP- and RA-related factors should be taken into account in treatment guidelines for OP in RA. First, to determine the actual fracture risk, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), including vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) and calculation of the 10-year fracture risk with FRAX®, should be performed. In case of high fracture risk, calcium and vitamin D should be supplemented alongside anti-osteoporotic treatment. Importantly, RA treatment should be optimal, aiming at low disease activity or remission. Moreover, GC treatment should be at the lowest possible dose. In this way, good fracture risk management will lead to fracture risk reduction in RA patients. This review provides a practical guide for clinicians regarding pharmacological treatment options in RA patients with OP, taking into account both osteoporotic-related factors and factors related to RA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1072
Number of pages12
JournalDrugs and Aging
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

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