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Mayo Clin Proc. 2010 Apr;85(4):341-8. doi: 10.4065/mcp.2009.0492. Epub 2010 Mar 15.

An observational study of musculoskeletal pain among patients receiving bisphosphonate therapy.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO 80045, USA.



To seek evidence for the association of bisphosphonate use with diffuse musculoskeletal pain (MSKP) in a large national cohort, controlling for conditions associated with MSKP.


This retrospective cohort study enrolled all US veterans aged 65 years or older with a vertebral or hip fracture who were treated for at least 1 year between October 1, 1998, and September 30, 2006 (N=26,545). All International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) diagnostic codes, demographics, and pharmaceutical data were obtained from national databases. A composite end point, based on ICD-9-CM codes compatible with diffuse MSKP, was constructed. The primary outcome was time until MSKP. We performed regression analysis using the Cox proportional hazards model, controlling for age, sex, race, alcoholism, depression, anxiety, smoking, recent 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitor (statin) use, rheumatic disease, and comorbidity score.


The univariate regression identified an association of bisphosphonate exposure and MSKP (hazard ratio, 1.22; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.44). In the multivariate regression, however, patients prescribed a bisphosphonate were not more likely to be assigned an ICD-9-CM code compatible with diffuse MSKP (hazard ratio, 1.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.93-1.30). Consistent with prior studies, we found that female sex, depression, anxiety, comorbidity score, and the presence of a rheumatic disease were all associated with a greater risk of a diagnosis of diffuse MSKP. There was no demonstrable association with statin exposure.


Bisphosphonate use was not associated with a statistically higher rate of MSKP in this cohort. Individual patients may rarely report MSKP while taking bisphosphonates; however, for our studied cohort, incident MSKP does not appear to explain bisphosphonate discontinuation rates.

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