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NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2020 Feb 13;30(1):5. doi: 10.1038/s41533-020-0162-6.

A retrospective database study of oral corticosteroid and bisphosphonate prescribing patterns in England.

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NIHR Division of Respiratory Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
NIHR Division of Respiratory Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.
Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.


Exposure to oral corticosteroids (OCS) is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and fragility fractures. Guidelines suggest bisphosphonate (BP) therapy as the first-line treatment of glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis (GIOP). This population study used publicly available data, including prescription annual cost analysis and monthly practice-level data. Our aim was to examine the prescribing of OCS and BP at practice level and investigate reasons for variation using a mixed-effect negative binomial regression analysis. There was a rise in OCS and BP prescriptions of 55% and 1200% from 1998 to 2018, respectively. Of the 6586 included practices, the median (IQR) of OCS and BP prescriptions were 120.8 (84.8-160.4) and 107.7 (73.8-147.4) per 1000 patients, respectively. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were significantly associated with OCS use (p < 0.0001), but only COPD was associated with BP use (p < 0.0001). Higher OCS prescribing rates were associated with higher BP prescribing rates (5th to 1st quintile-IRR = 1.99; 95% CI: 1.88-2.10). Practice list size, deprivation and advanced age were all associated with both drugs (p < 0.0001). In conclusion, although OCS use is positively associated with BP prescription, variation among practices and CCGs exists. The variation in prescribing suggests there is still a need to improve GIOP prevention.

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