Examining the Relationship Between Bone Mineral Density and Fracture Risk Reduction During Pharmacologic Treatment of Osteoporosis


Rheumatology Center of Mobile, 6701 Airport Boulevard, Suite A101, Mobile, AL 36608.


Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength that predisposes the patient to an increased risk for fracture. Elements of bone strength include bone mineralization, architecture, turnover, size, and bone mineral density (BMD). Measurement of BMD is the most readily available, noninvasive method for assessing osteoporotic fracture risk and is used by the World Health Organization for diagnostic purposes. Because low BMD is predictive of increased fracture risk, it was believed that changes in BMD during pharmacologic therapy for osteoporosis would strongly predict observed fracture risk reductions. We examined the relationship between changes in BMD and reduction in fracture risk during pharmacologic therapy in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. The correlation between BMD increases and fracture risk reduction during treatment is not consistent; larger increases in BMD do not necessarily correlate with greater reductions in fracture risk. Multiple factors, in addition to BMD, appear to contribute to the increased bone strength and decreased fracture risk achieved with approved drug therapies for osteoporosis. Until the exact relationship of these factors is fully understood, clinicians should continue to evaluate drug efficacy for osteoporosis based on the fracture risk reductions from well-designed clinical trials.