Cost-Effectiveness of Oral Bisphosphonates for Osteoporosis at Different Ages and Levels of Life Expectancy


  • Presented as a poster at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Geriatrics Society, May 2010, and recipient of the Presidential Poster Award in Geriatric Syndromes.

Address correspondence to Cathleen S. Colón-Emeric, Division of Geriatrics, Duke University and Durham VA Medical Center, 508 Fulton St, GRECC 182, Durham, NC 27705. E-mail:


OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of oral bisphosphonate therapy for osteoporosis in women at different ages and life expectancies.

DESIGN: A Markov model was used to analyze oral bisphosphonate treatment for 5 years compared to no intervention. Women at each age were divided into life expectancy quartiles: the lowest 1% to 25% (sickest group), the two middle 26% to 75% (average health group), and the highest 76% to 100% of life expectancy (healthiest group). Simulations were performed for hypothetical cohorts at 5-year intervals with starting ages between 50 and 90 and for each life expectancy group and followed for up to 100 years or until death. Data sources included published fracture rates, costs, utility values, and mortality risks.

SETTING: Computer simulation using a societal perspective.

PARTICIPANTS: Hypothetical cohort of women with various life expectancies beginning osteoporosis treatment between the age of 50 and 90 years.

MEASUREMENTS: Cost per quality-adjusted life years (QALY) gained for 5 years of bisphosphonate therapy compared to no treatment. Cost-effectiveness was defined at a willingness-to-pay of $50,000.

RESULTS: In the healthiest group, all costs were less than $18,000 per QALY. In the median quartiles of life expectancy, lifetime costs per QALY were less than $27,000 for patients at all ages; treatment became cost-saving at a starting age of 75 and remained so through a starting age of 85. Even in the sickest group, although osteoporosis treatment was not cost-saving, it remained cost-effective through a starting age of 90 with lifetime costs of less than $43,000 per QALY.

CONCLUSION: Treatment with an oral bisphosphonate for 5 years was cost-effective for all women, regardless of quartile of life expectancy. Advanced age should not prevent consideration of osteoporosis treatment based on cost effectiveness, and strategies to improve care, such as nurse-led screening programs or electronic medical record tools, are needed.