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Denosumab utilization among older adults in Ontario: patient characteristics, persistence with therapy, and return to therapy after an extended gap


Summary — We studied 46,797 older adults who initiated denosumab in Ontario, Canada. Patient characteristics remained relatively stable over time and aligned with public reimbursement restrictions. Almost half of patients persisted with therapy for at least 3 years. Fifty-nine percent of patients who discontinued denosumab returned to treatment within 3.6 years.

Introduction — The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics of patients who initiated denosumab and estimate persistence with therapy.

Methods — We identified older adults (aged ≥ 66 years) in Ontario who initiated denosumab between 2012/02 and 2015/03 and followed them to 2016/03. Patient characteristics were summarized using medical and pharmacy claims in the year before starting denosumab and osteoporosis drug use considered since 1996/10. Persistence with denosumab and return after discontinuation (> 90-day gap) were estimated using Kaplan-Meier curves. Analyses were stratified by community and long-term care (LTC) residence.

Results — We identified 46,797 patients (monthly mean = 1263, SD = 187); 97% female, 13% LTC. Community-dwelling patients had a higher prevalence of bone mineral density testing (62% vs. 5%), yet were younger (mean age 78.5 vs. 86.6 years) and had lower prevalence of hip fractures (3% vs. 10%) compared to LTC patients. Eighty-two percent of patients had used osteoporosis medications in the past; 99% of whom took an oral bisphosphonate. Persistence was similar between community-dwelling and LTC patients: 59% persisted ≥ 2 years, 48% ≥ 3 years, and 38% ≥ 4 years, yet a larger proportion of LTC patients returned to denosumab after discontinuation (76% vs. 57%).

Conclusions — Denosumab utilization is increasing at a steady rate in Ontario. However, persistence remains a concern given the highly reversible pharmacokinetic profile of denosumab that results in a rapid increased fracture risk following discontinuation. Over 80% of patients had a history of oral bisphosphonate therapy, which may persist in bone despite discontinuing denosumab. Consequently, better understanding of denosumab safety and effectiveness among real-world users is important.



Ban JK, Hao BB, McCarthy L, Guilcher SJT, Cadarette SM. Osteoporos Int. 2019; 30(9):1865-72. Epub 2019 Jul 17.

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